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Kids’ Athletics helps to make Kakuma Refugee Camp a home

What does home mean to you? Home can be a place, a sense of belonging or a feeling of happiness. For refugees at the Kakuma camp and Kalobeyei, home could easily be a Kids’ Athletics gathering.

On the early morning of 25 April, the Kalobeyei Sports Complex within the refugee settlement came alive, buzzing with athletics activities. A total of 125 young people from five schools took part in the Kids’ Athletics event, held as part of a four-day Kids’ Athletics workshop.

In collaboration with World Athletics, the workshop was held in Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei integrated settlements in north-western Kenya as part of the larger Athletics and Education programme implemented by AHEEN (African Higher Education in Emergencies Network). AHEEN, a network of African institutions, aims to keep young people that are in refugee communities in school and education, informed by principles of physical, social, cognitive and emotional wellbeing and sports science. On board for the workshop were UNHCR and Youth Education and Sports (YES), a refugee-led organisation that supports the development of sport and education for young people in the refugee context. Based in Kakuma, YES is a member of the AHEEN network.

Following the workshop, 23 teachers from four refugee schools and one from the host community applied their learning and delivered a fun event for the children. They were assisted by the U20 Athlete Refugee Team, a team supported by World Athletics as part of the AHEEN Athletics & Education programme.

“As the most universally accessible sport, it is vital that we reach down to the grassroots level to children across the globe to get them inspired about athletics. This is especially true in reaching youth who are displaced or in difficult situations outside of their control. Our Kids’ Athletics programme is the perfect vehicle to enable this by providing the flexibility we need to work with communities like the Kakuma Refugee Camp,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.

“Taking Kids’ Athletics to these settings means it becomes much more than a sport programme. With a holistic approach, it combines social, emotional and mental elements to promote a sense of wellbeing, and this is at the heart of our project in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. This is what Kids’ Athletics stands for.

“There can be no doubt as to the importance of Africa to our sport. The depth of athletics talent on the African continent is unparalleled. It is therefore our duty as the global governing body of athletics to implement programmes like Kids’ Athletics to ensure that every child – including those who find themselves in refugee camps such as Kakuma – is offered the same chance to reach the highest echelons of our sport.

“World Athletics will always promote our sport in Africa through grassroots outreach, the development of sporting infrastructure across the region, and the hosting of athletics events.”

Barbara Moser-Mercer is coordinator of AHEEN and designer of its Athletics & Education programme. She is also a visiting professor at the University of Nairobi.

“The community showed up in the stadium and there were many more kids who had wanted to participate. This bodes well for the future expansion of the programme,” she said, reflecting on the workshop and Kids’ Athletics event.

“Both the teachers/coaches and the kids demonstrated incredible engagement and showed us just how crucial sport is for wellbeing, especially in fragile refugee contexts. World Athletics and AHEEN collaborated on the delivery of the Kids’ Athletics workshop and made considerable effort to adapt the programme to the refugee context, ensuring that all the activities fit and met the needs of the local community.”

For Catherine O’Sullivan, Kids’ Athletics Senior Manager at World Athletics, the workshop reinforced the importance of the programme and the work that has been done during the past few years.

“It was heartwarming to see Kids’ Athletics being applied in this setting, bringing positive experiences and smiles to children and young people living in very challenging conditions,” she said.

At the end of the event, food was shared, certificates were awarded, plenty of photos were taken and celebrations were had. The four days impacted heavily on teachers, children and the communities they came from. Athletics brought a positive experience and smiles to children and young people living in extremely challenging conditions. Athletics made them feel at home.

(06/20/2024) Views: 206 ⚡AMP
by World Athletics
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