Kenya: UNHCR Launch Campaign to Support Refugee Olympics Team

UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, has launched a powerful social media campaign calling for the world to support the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic teams.

At the centre of the global campaign is 'The Journey' - a social video dramatically depicting the extraordinary stories of the refugee Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.

Released to mark the UN's International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, 'The Journey' tells the dramatised story of a refugee who is forced to flee her home on foot escaping conflict and persecution.

Travelling by land and sea, she eventually reaches safety, reestablishes her life and starts running towards a new goal: a medal. Created in collaboration with two International Olympics Committee (IOC) Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders, the social video highlights the power of sport to bring hope and change for all those forced to flee.

Nation Sport had an exclusive interview with Angelina Nadai and Paolo Amoton Lokoro both from the Refugee Team currently training at Ngong, Kajiado County.

Beaten all odds

The two athletes are among IOC Refugee Athlete Scholarship-holders from South Sudan, now living in Kenya with the hope of competing in athletics events in Tokyo Olympics.

They narrated how they have beaten all odds overcoming displacement and now Covid-19 to continue with training ahead of the Tokyo games and how the power of sport has helped them rebuild their lives.

Nadai, who has been training for the 800m and 1,500m race, said it has been a long journey for her. She was enjoying the sport before the virus struck forcing them to scale down their training.

Nadai is one of the 10 athletes who represented the refugee team during the Rio Olympic Games where she competed in the first round of 1,500m race in 2016 before heading to the World Championships in London where she posted her personal best of 4:33:54.

Speaking via Zoom, Nadai said her dream is to join other athletes in Tokyo when the Games commence. She has been working hard in training despite the many setbacks brought about by coronavirus pandemic.

"It has been a whole year without sports and when we thought things are getting back to normal, we are under lockdown again due to the coronavirus. This has literally stopped our lives but our hopes as athletes is to see Olympic Games held after it was postponed last year," said Nadai.

She said joining the Kenyan athletes for training in Ngong, Kajiado County has motivated her to work hard.

"I love running and joining the elite for training gives me a lot of motivation to work hard and I will be happy to compete with them this year in Tokyo," added Nadai.

Diploma student

She discovered her talent in athletics after winning school competitions at the refugee camp in Kakuma, Turkana County where she calls home.

Nadai said she is happy to have been selected to join the Tegla Loroupe Foundation camp after a brilliant show in trials something that has changed her life for the better.

She is currently pursuing a Diploma in Community Development at the Kenya Institute of Development Studies in Nairobi.

Having fled from his country South Sudan due to conflict, Amoton is also working hard for a bright future.

Just like his training mate Nadai, Amoton is eyeing a chance to represent the Refugee Team during the Tokyo Olympic Games in the 1,500m race. He has also been affected by the pandemic which has slowed him down after staying at home for the last one year.

"The virus has affected us but our mission will not be stopped because as an athlete my life has changed for the better and we still have a long way to go. I'm working hard to represent my team and I know my future is bright," said Amoton.

He said life was tough when the camps were closed across the country when the virus struck but he is happy that they are back though they have to train in small groups or individually.

Amoton, originally a cattle farmer in South Sudan, competed at 1500m during the Rio 2016 Olympics Games as part of the Refugee Olympic Team, composed of athletes who had been forced to flee their native countries due to violence.

He is currently in the same college with her training mate Nadai partaking Artisan course in Salesmanship in Nairobi.

The two athlete together with others camping at Tegla Peace Foundation Camp in Ngong are happy with the support and recognition from UNHCR to uplift their lives by erasing the bitter past and helping their families back at home.

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