“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.

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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