SALT LAKE CITY — A refugee teenager is using his favorite hobby to give back to the community and earn his Boy Scout Eagle award by collecting and donating soccer balls.
Kicking around a soccer ball is more than a past time for 13-year-old Joj Kwizera. The refugee said he grew up playing soccer in Congo, and now he competes and practices at least four days a week in his Salt Lake City league.
"My father played soccer so I just follow in his steps," Kwizera said.
When Kwizera was eight years old, his parents were killed in war-torn Congo. He and his 3 sisters were forced to flee their homeland and reside in refugee camps in Tanzania.
In February 2010, they became part of the Refugee Foster Care program through Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City. They are among 70 refugee kids in the program who have lost parents and are resettled in communities willing to take refugees.
Kwizera found a new home with Paul and Beverly Bartlett and their four kids.
Every African kid likes soccer. They come from Africa and they have problems like me.
"They've come a long way," Paul said. "When we picked them up at the airport, they didn't know English."
The Bartletts enrolled Kwizera in the Boys Scouts of America program and his goal is to earn his Eagle Scout award by the time he turns 14 years old in June. Kwizera will be the first in the Refugee Foster Care program to earn the award.
Paul is a Scout Leader in a Herriman troop. He encouraged Kwizera to choose a project that he'd love, and of course, it involved soccer.
"He has a lot of fun with it and we figured he'd take it and run with it on his own," Paul said.
Kwizera has run with the project. He has fiercely collected soccer balls, uniforms, and equipment for Catholic Community Services. He said he wants to give other newly arriving refugee kids the gift of soccer.
- Summit Printing
- 3125 S. 1030 West, SLC
"Every African kid likes soccer," Kwizera said. "They come from Africa and they have problems like me."
Kwizera said collecting soccer balls for other refugee kids is his way of giving back to Catholic Community Services - the organization he said has done so much for him.
"They brought me here, gave me a nice family, clothes and let me be on a soccer team," he said.
The Bartletts and Kwizera welcome any soccer equipment or cash donations for the project. A drop off location has been set up at Summit Printing at 3125 S. 1030 West in Salt Lake City. An account* has also been set up at Golden West Credit Union under the name "Joj's Eagle Project."