Bringing Para sport to refugees in Greece, Cyprus and Serbia

A project to take Para sport to refugees in Greece, Cyprus and Serbia aims to offer people hope through sport. 29 Nov 2016 By IPC

“It also functions as a pilot project that could be replicated in other European countries which accommodate refugees.”

The power of sport to change lives will soon be used to full effect in Greece, Cyprus and Serbia, as a powerful new project to bring Para sport to refugees living in camps and local communities gets underway.

The initiative aims to take these transformational qualities to the tens of thousands of people who have fled to the three countries, raising awareness of Para sport, registering those with impairments – especially children, and organising training opportunities.

To help support these worthwhile efforts, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee, the Agitos Foundation, has launched a fundraising campaign.

The scale of the need to give refugees with an impairment the chance to play sport cannot be underestimated. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games two refugee and asylee Para athletes formed the Independent Paralympic Athletes’ Team, drawing attention to the plight of people with impairments in their situation and showing the world their potential.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“At least 10 per cent of the general population has an impairment and around 50,000 individuals have been accommodated in refugee camps and other facilities in Greece,” said Vasillis Kalyvas, a project lead for the Greece, Cyprus and Serbia National Paralympic Committees’ (NPCs) activities.

Tens of thousands of people have been given shelter with the help of the UN’s Refugee Agency - UNHCR. But why is it important to give refugees with impairments access to sport?

“These facts and numbers define a group of humans who are at high risk of being marginalised and excluded from any kind of sport and social activity,” said Kalyvas.

“This is a big population that would largely benefit from Para sport involvement, improving their physical and psychological condition, social inclusion and overall well-being.”

As explained by its lead, the project will be made up of three phases.

“The first one includes building a network between the Hellenic Paralympic Committee (HPC) and other partners, whose main objective is the management of refugees that come to Greece as a result of wars and regional conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries,” Kalyvas said.

“Upon building this network and establishing cooperation, we will locate refugees with impairment who are accommodated in Athens and the Attica area and collect data about their disability, gender and age.

“Then we will invite them to attend awareness events, promoting their participation in Para sports clinics.

“Those willing to carry on with the training will enter the third phase of this project. They will be classified and assisted so that they can take part in programmes and in local and national competitions.

“Furthermore, this project may follow up in the future, as many of these refugees will either stay in Greece or move to other European countries, where they can continue their career thanks to a coordinated work amongst the HPC, the IPC [International Paralympic Committee] and the NPCs of the countries that these refugees will live in.

“It also functions as a pilot project that could be replicated in other European countries which accommodate refugees.”

The Agitos Foundation aims to raise EUR 25,000 between 29 November – 3 December towards helping refugees with impairments into Para sport in Greece, Cyprus and Serbia. The project is supported by the UNHCR and Athens University.

The fundraising will conclude at the end of the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December. Donate now to help ensure refugees with impairments are not left behind.