A drawing made by a Darfuri refugee child
It all started when, during his very first trip to Darfur, Gabriel brought out a soccer ball and began playing with refugees. He witnessed an immediate transformation: they were no longer victims and refugees, they were soccer players. It was then that he saw the power of sports in developing resilience. “Sport is the best tool for education and it has been proven to be essential for trauma recovery and healing for both children and adults. We use sport to teach about mindfulness, leadership, teamwork, physical and mental health. Children love it! They come, play, learn and then take those skills and benefits and use them in the rest of their daily lives,” Gabriel explains.
Civilians make a difference
Before he departs on his 23rd trip to Darfur, Gabriel ponders the difference that regular civilians can make in difficult situations: “Participation on behalf of the civilian population is key to addressing humanitarian emergencies and helping prevent future crises. As we have seen over and over again throughout history, our leaders will not always do what is right. We need to push them to act in a way that reflects humanitarian values and principles.
‘Regular’ people also have so much to offer, if they only give themselves the opportunity to act. Teachers, coaches, engineers, computer programmers and others have skills that are directly related to needs in refugee camps, no matter how remote.
iACT believes that a new culture of participation is needed if we are to stop cycles of violence, poverty and neglect,” Gabriel affirms.
Gabriel’s involvement in the humanitarian field was not accidental. A graduate of California State University in Dominguez Hills with specialization in behavioral sciences, he worked as a family counselor and offered professional therapy services in a home for abused children and their families before devoting his life to helping refugees in Darfur.