Will Smith attempts to start Syrian soccer team for at-risk children

When Launceston-born Will Smith told his parents he was going to one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work with some of the most at risk children, they weren’t thrilled.

But, Mr Smith acknowledges achieving goals shouldn’t be easy.

Mr Smith, who is based in the state’s North-West, has been following the Syrian conflict for a number of years through social media, research and news.

He found there were very few organisations helping in the country.

“Being a conflicted area means that it restricts quite a lot of access to organisations to go and help, which probably gave me a little more inspiration to help,” he said.

On June 17, he will leave Tasmania to travel to Lebanon. From there he will be driven to the Syrian border. However, he will not attempt to enter Syria.

Instead he will attempt to start a soccer team.

“We will be travelling to an area where a lot of Syrian youth cross the border and are just sort of in a state of limbo. There are kids there that have been orphaned due to the conflict, kids that have been just seeking refuge,” he said.

“These kids don’t have access to proper education. They’re not allowed to utilise sporting fields or participate in any public sports or anything like that.

“My aim is to go over and create a soccer team and then to implement that team into some type of competition or to create a competition.”

He will find a coach and volunteers to run the team, so it’s not just a one-off experience for the kids. He also plans to do it all in just two weeks.

“I’m not going over to try and change the world, or to have the greatest impact in the world,” he said.

“We’ve just identified that these kids are some of the most at-risk kids in the world right now. The least we can do is provide them with an experience that a majority of kids around the world have, and that’s the opportunity to play in a team environment and just feel safe.”

Mr Smith has been working with at-risk children for about 10 years, developing programs for a number of statewide organisations.

He started JCP Empowering Youth this year to continue working with these children. It develops and implements programs in schools and in the community.

“I’m a big believer in preaching that actions speak louder than words, and this is an opportunity for me to be able to say to young people this is a dream and a goal I’ve had,” he said.

“I don’t take it lightly, I’m going to take on the risks and the challenges to make sure that this happens.

“If you set a goal to work with the most at-risk kids in the world it’s not going to come easy and it’s not going to come without some type of risk.”

A number of steps have been taken to make sure the trip is as safe as possible, but Mr Smith understands there is no 100 per cent safety guarantee.

“If that was the case then there would be a lot more people heading over and assisting in the area,” he said.

The trip is being funded by Mr Smith’s company, but donations were sought for the soccer equipment. Many organisations have already donated equipment and about $3000 raised.

“We’re going to purchase a lot of equipment over there and then travel up. That is where a lot of the funds will go,” Mr Smith said.

He will stay at a peace centre, which has some security, and is where his contacts are based.

Mr Smith said his family were throwing their support behind him in a “very cautious” way.

“I wouldn’t say my family are on board 100 per cent, but I would say they are on board with the fact that I have something that I’m passionate about and that I want to achieve,” he said.

**Mr Smith knows it is an imprisonable offence to enter Lebanon with an Israeli stamp in his passport, but he does not have this. His intention is to go to the Lebanon border only.



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