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Free Bikes and Soccer for Refugee Kids

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A small act of kindness by Norfolk, VA resident Lisa Suhay has brought lasting happiness to more than 100
refugee children. Suhay was out donating books to the 30 or so refugee families that live in an apartment complex in Newport when she noticed about 100 children running after just one “
miserable soccer ball.”

Hoping to help, Suhay posted a video on Facebook and remarked on how the donations “miraculously” started flooding in. The children, whose families have come to the U.S. to escape war-ravaged countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and the Congo, received donations of clothes, food, and even bicycles from places as far away as Texas.

Suhay, a children’s book author and journalist, said that she was “completely blown away” by the response that the video received. The awareness that the video brought to the children and their families also helped create a soccer clinic for the kids to participate in that was hosted by the ODU soccer team. Members of both the men and women’s soccer programs came together to play soccer and ‘Simon Says’ and to eat lunch with the children and their families.

Alan Dawson
, the head of the men’s soccer program, talked about how the clinic benefitted more than just the children it intended to help. “The Clinic was an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience for my players and staff,” he said. Dawson also mentioned that the event fostered “a worldly perspective,” and helped everyone involved to see that “we’re more alike than we are different.”

Suhay seemed to feel similarly, explaining how the clinic helps to put “faces on the word ‘refugee’” at a time when the news makes the words “terrorist” and “refugee” almost synonymous in the minds of so many. 

Some of the families living in the complex fled Syria to come to Hampton Roads, moving from a war-torn country to live in middle and even upper class neighborhoods. For them, the chance to live a “normal life” is a privilege in and of itself. “Some of these kids are being kids for the first time today,” Suhay said. These children are being given a chance to enjoy their lives without the fear and danger that living in a war-torn country constantly elicits.

A Facebook page, Refugee Helpers 757, has been created for those looking to help further. The page helps facilitate donations like laptops and tablets for children to do their homework. It even helps put people to work, translating and advertising for a seamstress who makes girls’ dresses.

By being kind and taking a moment to spread awareness for these families, Suhay unintentionally showed the world the kindness of so many more people. People just need the opportunity to see refugees for what they really are—underprivileged people just looking for another chance at life.

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