In the heart of northwest Kenya, the Kakuma Refugee Camp and the neighbouring Kalobeyei Settlement stand as testaments to resilience and hope. Here, amidst the challenges of displacement, a group of determined young athletes from war-torn regions of Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan are finding empowerment through the unifying power of sports.

A Visionary Leadership
At the helm of this transformative journey is Kenya’s 2007 800m world champion, Janeth Jepkosgei. She leads the U20 World Athletics Athlete Refugee Team (ART), an initiative that goes beyond mere sports training. Under her guidance, the programme has become a transformative force, reshaping lives one stride at a time. Jepkosgei’s efforts are bolstered by Swiss educator Barbara Moser-Mercer and coach Arcade Arakaza, a refugee from Burundi, who focus particularly on empowering female refugees.

A Holistic Approach to Empowerment
The ART programme provides more than just athletics training. It delivers life-saving essentials like food and clothing, alongside education. This holistic approach recognizes the potential within these disadvantaged teenagers and equips them with the tools to unlock it. By integrating athletics with quality education, the programme demonstrates that despite their circumstances, these young athletes can strive for excellence in all aspects of life.

Breaking Down Barriers
Crucially, the programme breaks down barriers, enabling these young athletes to dream beyond the confines of their past. Through mentorship, they learn vital life skills – how to trust, live in harmony, and balance their training with academic responsibilities. The emphasis on female empowerment is particularly significant, providing young women with opportunities to excel in both sports and education, areas where they might otherwise be marginalized.

A Testament to Collaboration
The success of the programme is a testament to collaborative efforts. Support comes from various organizations and individuals, including World Athletics, UNHCR, and local communities. Together, they are rewriting the narrative for these refugee girls, demonstrating to the world that with the right support and opportunities, they can excel.

Through the U20 World Athletics Athlete Refugee Team, the youth of Kakuma and Kalobeyei are not just becoming better athletes; they are emerging as empowered individuals ready to take on the world. This initiative is more than a sports programme; it is a beacon of hope, lighting the path to a brighter future for these young refugees.

Source : Women leading by example – how the U20 refugee team is changing lives, on and off the track | News | Athletics Better World | World Athletics

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