Clara dreams of becoming
a successful soccer player.
Her family fled violence in Colombia.
“I want an opportunity to enroll in a sports school and show my soccer skills to specialized trainers,” says Clara Hernández, a 15-year-old girl who lives at the border of Colombia in Táchira State, Venezuela. Like many of her friends, Clara dreams of one day becoming a successful soccer player.
Clara’s passion for soccer began when she was a little girl. She used to play with the boys’ team in the community and participated in local championships. Though Clara was the only girl in the team, she never felt excluded. Now she trains both boys and girls in a local school as part of the Children of Peace Project, sponsored by the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO), and supported by UNHCR and its partners.
Clara lives in a remote village in Táchira State, Venezuela. She and others help UNHCR to implement sport projects that promote local integration. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
Even though Clara and her family have had to overcome many obstacles, they want to stay in Venezuela. Clara dreams of representing the country as part of its national soccer team. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
Since the start of the Children of Peace Project, Clara has won two medals with her team in local championships. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
Clara’s passion for soccer began when she was a little girl and she played with the local boys’ team. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
Many participants have benefitted from Clara’s leadership skills, including refugees and the local population. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
Clara’s soccer skills have secured her a scholarship, but her ultimate goal is to represent Venezuela in international championships. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
The local soccer school, which includes boys and girls, teaches technical skills and encourages the community to succeed and pursue their dreams. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
Refugee and local children participate in the soccer school, using the sport as an education and integration tool. Colombia has the second highest number of internally displaced persons in the world – some 6.5 million people – after Syria. ©UNHCR /Luis Parada
Speaking about the project, Clara says:
“It gives children the opportunity to develop skills, to encourage the community to succeed and pursue their dreams.”
The main objective of the project is to promote the integration of child refugees by using sport as a tool for education. Clara has made a real contribution to her host community, teaching both refugee and local populations at the local sports school.
Clara is Venezuelan, but she understands what it means to be a person uprooted from home and the kind of obstacles they can face. Her compassion for helping displaced people comes from her family’s experience of living as refugees in Venezuela. Around 16 years ago, her mother, Soledad, and three older brothers crossed the border after being threatened by armed groups in Colombia. “They wanted to forcibly recruit my oldest brother,” says Clara.
When they arrived in Venezuela, Soledad was already pregnant with Clara and her twin sister Diana. Once they were born, both of them integrated into the community, but Clara is conscious of the restrictions and distress the family experienced during the asylum procedure. “After my family were formally recognized as refugees, we felt more integrated,” she says.
The Hernández family want to stay in Venezuela. Clara is awaiting a scholarship that will allow her to join a soccer school and work towards her ultimate goal – representing Venezuela in the national team.
“My mom, my twin sister and family have been key for my sport and school education, and I would love to give them back everything they have done for me,” concludes Clara.
Written by Zasha Millan
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The regular crossing of Colombian refugees to Venezuela is perceived to have dropped significantly in the last two years. Despite the peace talk developments in Colombia, UNHCR continues to detect dispersed settlements of persons in need of international protection with quality refugee claims.
The main focus of UNHCR’s operations is to promote effective solutions for all those in need of international protection. Being documented offers security and access to rights and livelihoods in Venezuela.
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