Often, they feel like a lost generation unable to continue their studies and attain their dreams of a better and brighter future. They are extremely resilient and strong, but like any children, refugee children and youth deserve safe and supportive environments to heal, learn and shine.
Since 2017, UNHCR Rwanda has been supporting young refugees through sport activities thanks to the Sport for Protection Programme.
“Sport helps me to pause on all things. I don’t worry about camp life, since I enjoy sports so much, such as volleyball, which helps me relieve stress,” said Adeline, who was only nine years old when she fled the Democratic Republic of Congo with her mother and five siblings in 2014.
Ever since, Adeline has been working hard to finish her education and follow her dream of becoming a journalist.
“Sport has given me a lot of friends. I used to feel lonely, but sport helped me live a better life,” said her fellow volleyball player, Cadette.
It’s not just refugee students who experience the positive impacts, but also the wider community.
“There are countless benefits of sport. Sport creates a good relationship between refugee students and students from the host community. Students are relaxed and refreshed, and this helps them to stay focused and learn better,” said Jean de Dieu Harintwari, Headmaster of GS Mugombwa, in Mugombwa refugee camp, in the South of Rwanda.
In partnership with Educate A Child (EAC), a programme of the Education Above All (EAA) Foundation, UNHCR Rwanda is expanding Sport for Protection programmes in refugee-hosting areas, so more primary school students, both refugee and Rwandan children can play, shine and grow together.
Since 2020, the sport for protection programme has among other things supported the construction and rehabilitation of 8 multipurpose sports grounds in 5 schools and 2 camps and the training of about 50 Sport for Protection facilitators through the certified Youth Sports Facilitator, jointly devised by UNHCR and Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL).
Through this initiative, UNHCR and EAA are using sport as a platform to promote primary school enrolment and retention for both the refugee and host communities. The youth selected and trained as Sport for Protection facilitators, give back to their community by working together with primary schools to expand and promote organised sports initiatives as part of the school day. Like Jean Paul, a refugee youth who fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Rwanda in 2013, they become role models who, through sport, keep the flame of youngsters alive and give them a chance to shine.