PSG becomes first club to build sports centres at refugee camps
By Menatalla Ibrahim, Doha News
The centres will work as sport libraries, providing access to sports kits and equipment to thousands of refugees.
Thousands of refugees will get an opportunity to access more sports activities thanks to a new initiative by the Paris Saint-Germain Endowment Fund and KLABU, a Dutch social start-up.
The project, supported by the United Nations refugee agency UNCHR, will see sports clubs being built at refugee camps, providing access to sporting equipment and kits.
This would be the first time a sports club inaugurates a centre at a refugee camp, the Qatari-owned PSG said in a statement.
“UNHCR is pleased to collaborate in this project to help young refugees to participate in sport activities and strengthen social cohesion with their host communities. Sport gives refugee youth a chance to heal, to be protected and to develop their skills,” said Paolo Artini, UNHCR’s Representative in France.
“Sport is also a universal language and the personal engagement of great football players is a source of inspiration and hope in a better future for refugees.”
According to UN figures, more than 80 million people have been forced to flee their homes globally, almost half of those affected being children.
The initiative, which has been in the works for almost two years, aims to spread joy and power of sports through community-driven projects, the organisation said in a statement.
“Paris Saint-Germain is proud to be able to support such an honourable cause. Access to
sport should be a basic right for any child around the world, regardless of their background or circumstances. Through this project we look to build on the already extensive humanitarian efforts the Club has undertaken overseas,” said Paris Saint-Germain Chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
The first phase is set to launch this autumn at the single largest refugee camp in the world at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. It was made possible by PSG and KLABU’s partnership with the Bangladeshi NGO Friendship, which runs healthcare and education programmess for the Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host community children.
Its goal is to reach over 10,000 refugee and host community children as well as their family members.
“Together with KLABU, UNHCR and other partners, we hope to give a portion of the 80 million who are fleeing from challenging circumstances a sense of relief and of belonging. This project has been under development for almost two years now, the road has been long, but we hope the timing of its delivery will be a small yet welcome relief to refugee children, and to the further communities we hope to reach in future,” Al-Khelaifi added.
The centres will be managed by the local community to ensure the children’s needs are well-met and communicated.
Refugees and the host communities will have the opportunity to participate in training sessions and tournaments, watch sports matches together, and enjoy gaming and online connectivity. This provides a safe space for young people and their family members to develop physically and emotionally, finding relief from their hardships as well as pleasure in the practice of sport.
Given its prominence in supporting refugees and alleviating some of their sufferings, the launch is supported by a global awareness campaign titled “Defined By Spirit” to get
people to “look beyond the traditional narrative of hardship and dependency in refugee crises.”
“It is a dream come true to bring together Paris Saint-Germain with thousands of boys and girls admiring the team,” KLABU founder Jan van Hövell added.
“This joint effort with refugee communities reduces the isolation of young overlooked people connecting them with the world at large, through their club, their pride, their KLABU. As the first football club to support us in our efforts, we couldn’t have wished for a better partner to make this happen.”
In an effort to raise proceeds and awareness for the cause, PSG Endowment Fund, together with KLABU have created a product collection, available in both stores, for those who want to support the mission.
Following the success of the first phase, the Paris Saint-Germain Endowment Fund and UNHCR will work to potentially expand into other parts of the world.