When soccer people talk vertical it is mostly about getting under the ball and sending it high and as far down field as possible. This winter Soccer Without Borders went vertical a different way at Berkeley Ironworks.
Teamwork, trust, leadership and fun were the goals and we hit scored a bunch in January, February and March of 2014. Berkeley Iron Works generously provided access to provide five climbing experiences for a total of over 70 kids. Those of us who have rock climbed with kids know that it is one of those activities that immediately draws them in, gets them excited and challenges their minds and their bodies. What happens when you bring a group of recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world to a climbing gym? Fun and adventure.
The climbers aged from 12 to 19. They come from all over the world – Eritrea, Nigeria, Guatemala, Nepal to name a few. A handful had climbed once or twice – but none of the others had never climbed before. Each climbing day started with a thorough introduction to the safety protocols and general tips on climbing – then we hit the walls.
We had a great group of volunteers. Bill Walsh a long-time climber, walked everyone through the basics making sure that the returning climbers remembered what they had learned and showing the newbies the ropes for the first time. Bill actually worked at Berkeley Ironworks for years and connected with SWB through a serendipitous meeting on Christmas morning (best present for SWB that day!). When Bill heard about the project he committed to volunteer to run a training session and come to the climbing days in late January and February. Also helping out was Martin Muller a long time outdoors experiences pro and group facilitator. We also trained up a bunch of SWB staff, interns and volunteers to help with belaying.
Trust, teamwork and dealing with stress are all front and center when climbing up a 45 foot wall for the first (or 100th ) time. Bill shared with the group that the reason he got into climbing was to work on his fear of heights. That allowed the kids to open up about some of their fears and realize that everyone has fears and the question is how do you deal with it. The climbers had to trust the adults. Facing a potentially dangerous situation they had to trust that we knew what we were doing, that we had the right equipment and the right skill sets to make it physically and emotionally safe for everyone involved. And the kids had to trust and be supportive of one another.
Berkeley Ironworks is a great partner and supporter of our work. The climbing gym has been really generous and made it possible for SWB to afford adding this activity to the program. The staff has been super nice and their overall support makes this work. One of the interesting side benefits is making a connection with the Ironworks community. Every day we showed up we get into informal conversations with the staff and customers about what SWB is and does. We’re looking forward to making this a regular part of our programming. Climb On!
Soccer Without Boarders