A call for hope
A call for hope
Ibrahim Dabo, a former refugee, gives a personal insight into how sport helped in his rehabilitation, and how a more organized structure can support other refugees.
My name is Ibrahim Dabo, a former refugee who survived the brutal civil war which cost more than 50,000 lives in my native country, Sierra Leone. At the age of 12, I experienced the trauma of losing a father figure, Uncle John, who was brutally killed during the war. Some of the worst atrocities of the last century happened in Sierra Leone; years later, the scars still linger.
At age 14, I survived a harrowing journey through the Atlantic Ocean while escaping the war. I then became a refugee in Gambia, where I experienced the power of sport in the life of a refugee. Football was the most popular sport that united many refugees, especially young people. In many ways, football helped with their rehabilitation process.
The role sport can play
Sport as a unifier
Sport is undoubtedly a powerful tool to unite people. When I was a refugee at age 17, I was fortunate to write for the leading international football website then headquartered in New York City. I saw firsthand how the sport, considered by many as a religion, unified young refugees. It helps with their rehabilitation process, something the sport ecosystem can build on. Sport can especially provide young people an avenue to express their emotional pain and get the necessary support. The presence of trained phycologists will help with their healing process.
Create opportunities for personal and professional development
The sport ecosystem can use sport to provide opportunities for career, leadership development, and mentorship, allowing former child soldiers and other young people to flourish. Some of them may have lost a father, mother, or entire family and will seize the opportunity to pursue their God-given purpose.
- Scouting: Leading clubs, for example, European football clubs, can send scouts to seek out budding refugee talents in refugee host communities. It will enable them to fulfill their dreams of playing sports at the highest levels and then build on their success with a commitment to give back to their community, country, or refugee causes.
- Scholarships: Make a wide range of scholarships available to help refugees thrive and reach their full potential. The Aiming Higher campaign by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is an excellent example of such opportunities to fund refugee scholars' higher education.
Improve conditions in refugee camps
Refugee camps sometimes face substandard conditions, which can impact the mental health of refugees who have already undergone a lot of stress and trauma. Refugee camps are a vital area where the sport ecosystem should play a significant role in improving living conditions and the safety and security of refugees.
Uplift refugee voices
Form a powerful body within the already powerful sports ecosystem to manage a global annual event that welcomes refugee and internally displaced persons from around the world to share their stories. It will also be essential to hear their solutions to problems that forced them out of their communities or countries and brainstorm solutions to the refugee crisis globally. Invite government representatives from different countries and ensure key world leaders get the message with a plan of action they can execute.
Make the work of Goodwill Ambassadors more visible
Goodwill Ambassadors are vital in raising awareness about pressing issues facing humankind. Their work on behalf of refugees and internally displacement persons need more visibility in mainstream media to educate people and call on our leaders to take more action to address refugee situations.
Refugees and internally displaced people need support and opportunities to live better lives. The sports ecosystem has what it takes, in terms of influence and resources, to make this dream a reality, especially for young refugees. Mother Teresa said, "The greatest good is what we do for one another." It is time to take all necessary actions to foster hope so refugees can thrive and fulfill their God-given potential.
Ibrahim (Ib) Dabo is a global humanitarian who has made it his life purpose to bring hope to people in the face of challenges and hopelessness. He is a motivational speaker, journalist, and hearing health advocate. Ib is also an IT leader for a global non-profit organization and Commissioner for the Georgia Commission for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Georgia, United States. Visit his website to learn more about his work.