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Rehabilitating refugees through sports and education

Copyrights: Andrew Aitchison

Rehabilitating refugees through sports and education

The RUN programmes work with refugees and asylum seekers through sports and education to create an empowered refugee community in Hong Kong.

On 24 January this year, the world celebrated the first International Day of Education, "in celebration of the role of education for peace and development."

Access to high quality education is important for adults, but critical for the millions of adult refugees and asylum seekers globally. Education allows refugees to integrate into a new country of resettlement, find stable employment, and make meaningful contributions to local host communities. However, for adult refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong, no access to education is provided. This gap is filled by a nonprofit organisation, RUN.

RUN rehabilitates vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers through sports and education with a vision to create a resilient and empowered refugee community in Hong Kong. RUN participants have fled from some of the world’s most serious conflicts. Over 70% of the participants have suffered from horrendous human rights abuses, including torture, rape, physical and mental abuse or a combination of these. Many are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, hyper vigilance or similar conditions.

This is where sports becomes crucial. For the refugees and asylum seekers in RUN’s community, sport and education are inextricably linked.  RUN offers refugees and asylum seekers, particularly women, the opportunity to heal and become both mentally and physically strong through sports. The benefits of running and spending time outdoors in overcoming trauma and fighting depression have long been evidenced. This then allows participants to focus on their education and professional skills. This year, all of RUN’s participants will be studying online university classes or in-person courses in business, IT, healthcare, and other in-demand industries worldwide.

RUN’s programmes contribute directly to SDG 3 and SDG 4. After participating in RUN’s sports programmes, 73 percent of refugee participants report much better to noticeably improved personal health and 76 percent feel more hopeful. Through running and other sports, refugees build mental fortitude, discipline and confidence. One of RUN’s female participants, completed a daunting 100 kilometre ultramarathon, the longest race any refugee in Hong Kong has completed. Others continue to place in competitive races throughout the city.

While sports is the linchpin for RUN’s mission, education is core to RUN’s work and in achieving SDG 4. The mental and physical strength needed for sports also translates into the skills needed to tackle educational goals, restore independence and dignity, and prepare refugees for re-entry into the workforce.

Hong Kong is not a signatory on the 1951 UN Refugee Convention so refugees cannot resettle in Hong Kong permanently. Thus learning new skills and developing professionally allows refugees to make the most of their time while they wait and may improve their chances for resettlement. Education also allows refugees to secure stable employment in their future country of resettlement, ultimately creating a better future for themselves and their families wherever that may be.


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Pristine Lampard


Friday, February 22, 2019 - 15:29

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