TT 4 World Refugee Day 2020

World Refugee Day is an opportunity to shine a light on the rights, needs and dreams of refugees, commemorate the challenges they face and encourage ways for refugees can thrive.

Since 2004 the ITTF has been investing in table tennis for refugee projects, with us, the ITTF Foundation, starting it’s life with the same target group in 2018. In light of this year’s theme “Everyone can make a difference. Every action counts.” and to highlight their courage and strength, the spotlight goes out to the project leaders and coaches working every day to build dignity and hope to the communities.

Dream Building projects in Jordan refugee camps

More than 11 million Syrians are currently displaced. This amounts to 45% of the Syrian population.

Za’atari: Nittaku Dream Building with Refugees

Za'atari Refugee Camp: home to almost 80,000 refugees with more than 50% under the age of 18. In 2018, we commenced table tennis sessions in 5 centres across the camps' 12 districts. In this programme, we support 3 refugee coaches who run table tennis activities, from Thursday to Sunday, in the camp and run weekly sessions across the 5 districts. To date, more than 146 young people exposed to the programme and are an average of 84 regular participants. The sessions have been on standby due to the lock down since March – the coaches have been doing online sessions with the coach from Ping Pong Alkmaar, a project supported by the Dream Building Fund and soon the children will be joining these online sessions.

The project is supported by the Agitos Foundation and is part of the ‘Live Together Programme’ led by Peace and Sport.

Azraq: Dream Building with Refugees

At the Azraq Refugee camp our programme looks to provide table tennis for relief through regular classes accessible to all refugees. We chose to focus on sessions for persons with disabilities as studies highlight a lack of access to activities for persons with disabilities, the main limiting factors identified: distance and physical access.

With the support of the Agitos Foundation and a partnership with the World Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation we launched a new initiative in December 2019.

Between December and March, our coach was delivering two open sessions a week in the camp. In this time, we had an average of 6-10 regular participants 70% boys, 30% girls.

Dream Building Fund projects

Two of the Dream Building Fund projects we support focus on integration of refugees through table tennis.

Netherlands: Ping Pong Alkmaar

Ping Pong Alkmaar is running regular sessions that aim to provide table tennis activities for the whole community of Alkmaar, NETHERLANDS and the surrounding area with a focus on breaking down barriers and stereotypes of underrepresented people and groups, such as refugees, and encourage integration. So far, the programme runs two weekly sessions with an average of 15 regular participants.

During the Covid-19 period, the project leader, with the support of one of the Syrian participants, Youssef stepped up the solidarity engagement and holds weekly online sessions with the coaches from the Za´atari camp and soon will also be leading sessions with the kids.

Online sessions between Ping Pong Alkmaar and the coaches of the projects. Photo: Ping Pong Alkmaar

Ecuador: FUDELA

FUDELA runs a programme using table tennis as a vehicle of change for youth and integration of Venezuelan, Colombian migrant, and refugee populations with the Ecuadorian community in the North.

Creating safe spaces, through a combination of one-off events and weekly sessions, to play table tennis and promote life skills to youth and developing the integration of refugees with local population through table tennis are the main goals. So far 400 youth have been reached.

Signed pledge: Global Compact on Refugees

Last but not least, in December 2019 we and the ITTF signed the Global Compact on Refugees pledge. This pledge includes three commitments:

    • To promote and ensure access for all refugees, without distinction of any kind, to safe and inclusive sporting facilities.
    • To increase availability and access to organized sports and sport-based initiatives for refugee and hosting communities, actively considering age, gender, ability, and other diversity needs.
    • To promote and facilitate equal access to and participation of refugees in sporting events and competitions at all levels.

Following the pledge there are regular check points and updates as well as a tracking progress dashboard online developed by UNHCR under the Global Refugee Forum mandate making it an exciting time to work on projects that can bring dignity to refugees.

CONCLUSION

With more than 50% of refugees worldwide being under the age of 18 we are convinced that sports such as table tennis have a huge role to play in the well-being, dignity, integration, or relief of refugees. We have been supporting projects since 2004, we will continue to support projects with refugees, and we do believe Every Action Counts, not just today but every day.

On this special day, we must say, we are very proud and grateful to our coaches, project leaders and young participants. We hope to grow and improve these projects and their impact as soon as the Covid-19 situation allows. Until then, we encourage online solidarity between our projects such as the innovative interaction between Ping Pong Alkmaar and Za’atari.

Grow your insight into refugees and the refugee situation: https://www.un.org/en/observances/refugee-day


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