Desire Encompasses Refugee\'s Dreams

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COLUBMIA -- Adam Booth's coaching career spans almost two decades. Older though, is his philosophy of sport.

"Just being yourself is important," Booth said. "Finding who you are, celebrating who you are and playing your game. You have to be yourself before you can play your game."

Lessons he learned from his grandmother. "She always looked for the good in people, and always found it" And so did Booth.

"It's not just about soccer," Booth said. "It's really more about helping kids grow."

Past jobs allowed Booth to work with children and apply the lessons he learned from his grandmother.

One parent of refugee children recognized Booth's gift. He wanted to create a foundation so any child, despite their economic situation, could learn and grow.

Jeff Tyler died before he could see The Jeff Tyler Foundation come to life.
And for Booth "To me, Jeff always seemed to have the right thing to say...a couple times his words, kept me going"

And Booth keeps his athletes going after enduring a childhood that no one should ever experience.

Mary Kate Loring spends significant time with the refugee teens in Booth's program.

"They are refugees." Loring said.
"So they fled their home countries based on a well-founded fear of persecution."

Loring explained that one of the refugees, Gire Ngezhayo, lived in panic for a period of time.

For Gire and his family, sleeping in their home was no longer safe. A list with their names on it forced his family to find shelter in the woods to avoid being killed.

According to the Missouri Department of Social Services in Columbia, since 2008, 2,019 refugees 18 and younger fled to Missouri; And since 2010, 158 refugees have called Columbia home according to Refugee and Immigration services.

Issa and Bukuru, 14-year old twins, came to the United States in 2008, along with 414 other refugees and eventually made their way to Columbia.

Phil Stroessner works for the Refugee and Immigration Services. He said one reason Columbia sees so many refugees is because of the community. "Columbia has an incredible support network and a wide variety of individuals assisting refugees. This makes it a very attractive place for a refugee."

Loring takes pride in how far these teenagers have come in life.

"Everything they've witnessed, to adjust and be functional 13- and 14- and 15-year olds with everything they've witnessed, I think is just incredible and if people knew what they've been through, they would have a lot more, ‘Oh my gosh!' because it's crazy," she said.

Ira Desire, a 14-year old refugee, explained the difficulties of life back home.

"Everything was hard," said Desire, a 14-year old refugee. "Soccer was my favorite sport and I played it with no shoes, barefooted. We had bruises on our feet. It was just hard to get all the things we have here in the United States."

There's no looking back, no pictures to remind them of Africa, only memories to reminisce about the life they left behind -- for greener pastures.

"Here they don't have dirt," Issa said. "In Africa, we don't play in grass; we play in the dirt."

With help from Booth and the Columbia community children discover who they are and who they can be in life, the playing field no longer matters.

Said Desire: "We all have dreams we wish to come true."

To donate to the The Jeff Tyler Foundation, please visit the following website