By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
As rain poured down outside July 18 a large group of children turned the basement of the Catholic Charities of Louisville Office for Refugees on West Market Street into a soccer field.
The children, most of them newly resettled refugees in Louisville, were taking part in a summer soccer clinic organized by S.C.O.R.E. (Soccer Connections OutReach and Enrichment) Louisville — a newly formed non-profit aimed at helping refugee children feel welcome in their new home.
The clinic also provided an opportunity for Catholic youth to experience the Year of Mercy by fulfilling the spiritual work of mercy that calls for comforting the sorrowful.
S.C.O.R.E Louisville was created by Jack Schrepferman and Andrew Klem, juniors at St. Xavier High School. Close to 70 kids took part in the clinic July 18, the sixth of seven soccer clinics organized this summer.
More than 100 children resettled in Louisville from nine countries have taken part in the clinics. And clinic volunteers have come from St. Xavier, Trinity, duPont Manual and DeSales high schools.
Schrepferman and Klem, who play soccer at St. Xavier, started working on the idea for S.C.O.R.E. last year, they said in an interview last week.
While volunteering with refugee children at Catholic Charities’ English school last year, Schrepferman said he realized most of the students couldn’t communicate with each other; they spoke different languages. Schrepferman said he started thinking of a way to help the kids connect and make new friends.
He and Klem put their heads together and decided to use their love for soccer, what they call the “universal language,” to help these kids, said Schrepferman.
“Making immigrants feel welcome and helping them in a time of need are two of the beliefs of both the United States and the Catholic Church,” he said.
Klem added, “Our mission is to welcome refugee children into our city and help them connect with one another.”
It turns out that S.C.O.R.E may be achieving more than that, too.
Luzon Pivi — a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the coordinator of a mentoring program in Catholic Charities’ Office for Refugees — cheered the young soccer players on during the clinic July 18. “It’s great,” he said with a bright smile. Having the opportunity to engage in a familiar activity like soccer helps the kids with feelings of homesickness, said Pivi.
He also noted that for many of the participants, the soccer clinics have provided their first opportunity to interact with American kids. Many of the youth and children playing soccer that day were new to the city and hadn’t had the opportunity to attend school yet.
Clinic volunteers give the children “a chance to gain some communication skills and improve their English skills before the school year starts,” added Pivi.
Klem and Schrepferman have been collecting donations to purchase jerseys and soccer balls for each of the kids served at the soccer clinic. They also collected used clothing, which they handed out at the clinic July 18.
They plan to give each child a new soccer ball during the final clinic, scheduled today, July 28.
“We’re hoping the kids will be more involved and make new friends through soccer,” said Klem. “We hope they’ll take their new soccer ball and play in their communities.”
Klem and Schrepferman said they plan to keep the program going in Louisville and would like to see it grow and be used by other Catholic high schools in surrounding cities. For more information on S.C.O.R.E, visit www.scorelouisville.com.