Sam Parker remembers feeling nervous as he walked onto the soccer field at Powell Park last summer. He saw the large group of kids running around and was worried that they wouldn’t like him, that he was too different. But within minutes of kicking the ball around, he felt at ease. Everyone welcomed him in, and from then on, he was hooked.

Parker, along with friends Morgan MacFarlane and Dmitri Schmidt spent every Monday and Thursday evenings volunteering with 4WU’s Soccer in the Park program.  The three friends live in Oregon City and made the 45-minute commute to Portland because, they say, the experience was eye opening.  MacFarlane first heard of Soccer in the Park through the “Hands on Greater Portland” website. A soccer player herself, she says, “I saw it and I was like, OK I have to do that with friends.”  What started as a search to complete volunteer hours, soon became a 12-week commitment that would solidify her interest in international affairs.

The trio says experiencing a new culture was one of the best parts of volunteering for 4WU. “It kind of gave me a lot of insight as to, just life for refugees coming from Africa. I mean, I’ve studied these things in school and stuff and so I know the facts about them,” Parker explained, “but you don’t get that personal interaction with those people. You don’t get to understand how they feel about where they are.”  MacFarlane also noticed cultural differences. She says, “It was just really cool to see how they played and stuff…in the US you don’t really see people just playing pick up games of soccer.”  Despite the differences, Parker says, “I was welcomed in.”  All three friends are planning on volunteering at Soccer in the Park again next year. For them it is more than a volunteer commitment, it is a way to connect with another culture through sports. 4WU invites you to volunteer too!

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