- A young soccer player who recently signed with the Seattle Sounders in MLS grew up in a refugee camp.
- His upbringing in the camp was fraught with challenges, but didn’t stop him from honing his socccer skills everyday.
- After moving to America he has flourished as a soccer player and has a chance to be an inspiration to other kids growing up in a refugee camp.
Handwalla Bwana, an 18-year-old who recently signed a contract with the Seattle Sounders in Major League Soccer, still remembers playing soccer “on sand or dirt” out in the sweltering heat in a refugee camp, as noted in a piece published by SB Nation.
Bwana spent his early years in a refugee camp called Kakuma, in northwest Kenya. His upbringing was undeniably tough.
“Trying to survive, making sure someone doesn’t come to your house and kill you,” Bwana told SB Nation. “That’s the hardest part.”
In Kakuma, he slept on the floor of a mud house, and would get stung by scorpions at night.
Despite this, he was still able to work on his soccer game. Bwana recalls his mother telling him, “You would run around the house with a little ball, and you would kick it, and you would not stop, like literally no stop.” He also frequently had to kick around garbage in lieu of an actual soccer ball.
Eventually, Bwana and his family were able to immigrate to the United States. There was, understandably, quite a bit of culture shock at first, and Bwana, as the best English speaker in the family, had to help his mother with tasks such as paying the bills.
But Bwana and his family adapted, and he thrived on the soccer pitch, enough to earn a Homegrown Player contract from the Seattle Sounders. He made his professional soccer debut this past weekend, logging 26 minutes in the Sounders’ season-opening match.
And he has a chance to go on to become an inspiration to other kids who grow up in Kakuma.
“It is extremely important to see people from Kakuma succeed outside the camp,” Tom Mboya, an NGO worker, told SB Nation.
“This helps to reduce the general feeling of hopelessness and despair that refugees experience – a feeling that ability, education, and hard work is not appreciated and does not bring much to the table. This general feeling is borne out of the fact that educational opportunities are limited.”