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AmeriCorps volunteer workers help Guinean migrants connect through soccer

Erika Tranatal, WCVB Channel 5

June 27, 2024

Migrants from Guinea, 25-year-old Mamadou and 19-year-old Alseny, have only known each other for a few months, but they share similar stories. Both young men flew from Guinea to Guatemala and then traveled to the United States by any means necessary

."I walk(ed) and took the bus,” Alseny said.

"Sometimes horses,” Mamadou added. “It was hard. In Mexico, the mafia, they took our money and phones and everything."

A military coup in Guinea in 2021 resulted in ongoing ethnic and political violence. Both young men said they feared for their lives.

"USA is the best country in the world,” Mamadou said. “There are a lot of opportunities that can help young people that have a goal to achieve."

Without any resources of their own, both said they found compassion and care in Boston. They said two women in particular extended kindness. Manuela Arroyav and Mara Quinn are AmeriCorps volunteers partnered with Boston Healthcare for the Homeless. They work with doctors, including Aura Obando, who runs a medical clinic inside the youth shelter at Bridge over Troubled Waters.

"I work closely with Manuela and Mara in medical case management and supporting our patients,” Obando said. “So, for instance, food insecurity, access to transportation and clothing, help navigating a pharmacy, things like that."

Obando said securing legal help, work papers, and school placements are all tasks Arroyav and Quinn help with.

"The need is profound,” she said. "Many of these patients of ours, they are fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries, and so they carry a lot of trauma from that, but then there's also the trauma of acculturation and learning how to navigate a new space in a language that's not their own, and then feeling isolated because they've left in many cases their loved ones behind, and so building community is super important."

With that in mind, Arroyav and Quinn connected Mamadou, Alseny, and others with a Boston-based soccer league. In Guinea, soccer is part of life.

"If you want to have some friends, you have to play soccer," Mamadou said.

"We brought them to soccer practice in January, and it just took off,” Quinn said. “They kept going every week. They loved it. The soccer team is a really great, productive way for them to spend their time. (It’s) great for their mental health, great for their physical health.”

Alseny now captains a team of players from Guinea set to compete in the Boston Unity Cup this summer.

"When you see people that speak the same language as you and know what you are going through, that helps you to recover just a little bit," Mamadou said.


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