While the baseball squad has just kicked off their spring season, and the lacrosse teams are in full swing, this week’s Athlete of the Week features senior men’s soccer midfielder Danny Reategui. Why, one might ask? Well, quite simply, Reategui earned the notice of The News-Letter not only for his performance on the field for the Blue Jays this past fall but also for his continued dedication to the sport off the field as a member of the Soccer Without Borders (SWB) program.
SWB, a program only just started in 2006, aims to use the world’s universal love of soccer to aid refugees in their transition to the United States. According to the program’s website, “Soccer Without Borders believes that the potential of soccer to make change is deeper than simply playing the game. Rather, our programs are built around the philosophy that soccer’s interpersonal environment has unique potential to meaningfully impact participants.”
While people often say that sports are more than just a game, SWB truly exemplifies that ideal with their capacity to use soccer as a means for personal growth, relationship development and social integration. As a result of his dedicated involvement in SWB and his tremendous work ethic on and off the field, Reategui earned the honor of Athlete of the Week. We spoke with Reategui about the program and his involvement in the cause.
The News-Letter: Danny, can you briefly talk about the Soccer Without Borders program? What is its mission and what type of work do you guys do?
Danny Reategui: Soccer Without Borders is a non-profit organization that uses soccer as a vehicle for inclusion, growth and support for refugee youth from all over the world. Soccer is the language they all know and love to play. Not only do these refugees play soccer, but they also get help with their homework and assignments and help with their English speaking abilities.
N-L: When did you start and what, or who, got you into the program? Going off of that, what is your current role with the program?
DR: I started this program in May of 2013. I was paired up with this organization after being selected for the Community Impact Internship Program through Hopkins. I was an intern throughout the summer, and I still work part-time throughout the week!
N-L: Having started in 2006, with the Baltimore chapter only opening in 2009, the program is still relatively young. What areas of growth in SWB have you seen since you first joined?
DR: The program is very young. There are satellites all over the country and even outside of the United States. The beauty of Soccer Without Borders in Baltimore is that it is expanding year to year. Kids love the program and through word of mouth, education and soccer training is spread throughout the refugee community of Baltimore attracting more members to our family.
N-L: Additionally, what are some of the challenges you guys face working with the refugee population? And some challenges you face in general?
DR: A lot of challenges arise from the language barrier. Various languages are spoken in the program from Arabic to Swahili to Tigrinya. We try to stress an English-only rule to help them develop the language because it is a necessity. Some of the kids are made fun of because of the way they dress in their culture or because they look different. But we strive to implement a sense of inclusion and a safe environment for everyone.
N-L: On the flip side, what makes the program great? What are some aspects that have kept you motivated and committed?
DR: This program is great because it is all-inclusive no matter where the refugee comes from. SWB does an amazing job of welcoming the family and providing services for them as well. The SWB staff is extremely dedicated to the cause and they are extremely helpful and flexible. It is a tough job facilitated by the resilient staff members that are the backbone of the organization. Seeing their motivation keeps me committed. The fact that I know my work makes difference also keeps me inspires me.
N-L: Moving forward where do you hope to see the program go in the future? Do you plan on staying involved in some capacity once you graduate?
DR: I hope the program continues growing because it makes a huge, positive difference in the refugee community. Providing a safe home for them after school and in the summer. I plan on staying involved with SWB as long as I can. I will always have a place in my heart for those kids and the fellow staff members. It has truly been a great, satisfying experience.