Tuesday, 16 June 2020 19:41

World Refugee Day

As we head into Refugee Week, culminating in World Refugee Day on 20th June, it’s fair to say that set against a rather turbulent backdrop of the global response to COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests, it’s certainly a powerful mix. It is also one which should make us reflect on not just supporting refugees, but also how we do this.

It’s a well-versed narrative in the refugee sports world that providing safe spaces for refugees to access sport helps build confidence, reduce social isolation, and assist with education and language learning. Having been fortunate enough to see how this is done in lots of different places with people from a variety of backgrounds, responses to support refugees need to acknowledge that this is not one homogenous group. Instead, it is amazingly diverse, with differing support requirements.

At Cricket Without Boundaries we see these differences first-hand through the various projects we are involved with. In Uganda, the ‘Family Spirit’ school and home to children supports young people living with HIV from all around the East African region. Here, having the equipment to play and learn cricket, as well as most importantly the opportunity to play at cricket festivals alongside other local children has broken down stigmas, to help build integration in the community.

In Jordan, coaching in a run-down school near to the border with Syria I will always remember being challenged by one young girl who asked; ‘what do you see me as?’. In the subsequent discussion we talked about stigmas regarding being a Syrian in Jordan, and how this affected confidence and led to young refugees questioning their identity, which was hampering their ability to learn in school. Partnering with Right to Play Jordan, cricket is being used to help address some of the challenges that the young people identified.

In addition, for some of the young people participating, cricket is a cathartic way of managing some of the challenging feelings they are experiencing, as a result of what has happened in their past and the present. Having been fortunate to coach refugee and asylum seeking children cricket in the UK for nearly a decade, there have been numerous times that balls (fortunately mainly tape balls) have come flying back towards my head as it transpires that the batter is having trouble with the progression of their immigration application, or their foster carer, or that another kid in school has picked on them because of where they are from. Fair to say that we have all enjoyed kicking or hitting a ball when we have had a rough day - refugees are not exempt from this.

Through seeing the different contexts we operate in, as part of not just CWB’s but other organisations’ refugee sports delivery programs, it’s clear that we should work alongside the refugee community, supporting and developing their ownership and leadership in the programmes, as well as providing a safe environment for all involved to challenge the delivery model. Through doing this we maximise the potential to achieve what is needed in response.

The impact of COVID-19 globally has made us, as well as other refugee and sports organisations, reflect on how we provide and facilitate these opportunities. This is changing delivery models - from sports coaches diversifying their work, sharing messages about COVID-19 in their community by painting information and sports coaching drills on the walls of refugee settlements, to more and more organisations moving coaching over to Zoom or Skype. With varying access to technology and internet, providing downloadable or printed information which can be accessed at any time, in a range of languages is also shaking up how we deliver.

It is not simply enough to say we support refugees. It’s making sure that refugees are part of the discussion to develop delivery, that the responses cater for what will work with and for them, as and being willing to try new things. As a CWB coach one of the first things you learn is to be adaptable. This is so vitally important in our ongoing support of refugees.

Happy Refugee Week.




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