The development arm of the International Paralympic Committee, the Agitos Foundation, is appealing to the global community for their support to help refugees with impairments into Para sport by raising EUR 25,000 for an innovative project.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, aid organisations have estimated that of the more than four million refugees from the conflict in Syria alone, one in five has a physical, sensory or intellectual impairment.
The Agitos Foundation will launch a fundraising appeal on Tuesday (29 November) in aid of a cross-border project in Greece, Serbia and Cyprus which aims to give refugees living in camps and communities life-changing access to Para sport.
Donations can be made via Generosity, the philanthropic crowdfunding platform: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/bring-the-power-of-sport-to-disabled-refugees)
The transformational power of Para sport was once again shown during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. For the first time, two refugee Para athletes competed in an Independent Paralympic Athletes’ (IPA) Team. Ibrahim Al-Hussein, originally from Syria, and Iranian Shahrad Nasajpour raised awareness of the plight of the thousands of people with impairments who have had to leave their homes.
A keen swimmer and judoka, Ibrahim had his leg blown off during a rocket attack in his home town of Deir al-Zour in 2013. He received basic treatment before leaving Syria for Turkey and on to Greece by boat, where he was able to start again in Athens, Greece.
He began swimming and playing wheelchair basketball. He carried the Olympic flame through the Eleonas refugee camp during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Torch Relay. He was training alongside the Greek national Paralympic team when he was put forward for the IPA Team.
But Ibrahim was one of the lucky ones. Not every refugee with an impairment can experience the benefits that sport can bring to their lives.
The Agitos Foundation wants to change that and is urging people around the world to support its efforts to offer the same hope to others.
Funds raised will go towards the project from the Hellenic, Cyprus and Serbia National Paralympic Committees, being run in partnership with the Hellenic Paralympic Committee and the University of Athens. The aim is to bring information and sport opportunities to those with impairments amongst the refugee population in those countries.
Ibrahim Al-Hussein said: “2016 was definitely the best year of my life. But Rio was just the start.
“Since I returned from Rio my life has taken a 360 degree turn. It opened doors for me. Everyone should get involved in sports. They should go to sports clubs when they can. Nothing is too difficult and there is no disability. Everything can be overcome.”
The project will provide information about Para sport to agencies running the refugee camps; register refugees, especially children, with impairments; give refugees the chance to learn about the Paralympic Movement; organise a training camp and grow a network to ensure that refugees with impairments have access to sport programmes and competitions.
The initial target is to raise EUR 25,000. Any surplus funds raised will go towards supporting the IPA Team into 2017, where Ibrahim aims to compete at the World Para Swimming Championships and Shahrad at the World Para Athletics Championships.
The Agitos Foundation’s fundraising initiative will go live on 29 November, in time for #GivingTuesday, and will conclude at the end of the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December.