Kakuma is Bursting with Sports Talent

As the Refugee Olympic Team was preparing to make history in the 120th Olympic games in Rio, refugees in Kenya’s Kakuma Camp, were preparing for their own iconic games

Kakuma Refugee Camp – As the Refugee Olympic Team was preparing to make history in the 120th Olympic games in Rio, refugees in Kenya’s Kakuma  Camp,  were preparing for their own iconic games. A sign of solidarity with the five members of the refugee team, who live in the camp.

A total of 120 refugees and teams from humanitarian agencies competed in volleyball, football and basketball games, which took place in Kakuma 1, the oldest section of the camp. These games are very popular in the camps and they are also are played in the Olympics.

Antony Romana Pamela, the only female who played the basketball game, is good friends with the three of the members of the Refugee Olympic Team, having grown up with them in Kakuma.  She says she also hopes to participate in the Olympics one day.  When the International Olympic Committee announced that Rose Nathike, one of her best friends, would be the flag-bearer during the opening ceremony, Pam was inspired; “I hope that Rose will raise that flag high and with confidence. I hope they’ll run and bring the gold back to Kakuma.”

The volleyball refugee team Coach, Mr. Matar Peter, expressed his gratitude to the International Olympic Committee for considering a Refugee Olympic Team to represent refugees from all over the world. “This is talent exposure and as a coach I applaud that,” he said.

Muddy tarmac roads and pools of water owing to the previous night’s downpour did not stop 50 enthusiastic marathoners from taking part in the 5 kilometre race which was flagged off in Kakuma town. Participants included both refugees and employees of humanitarian agencies operating in the camp.

John Lomana, a refugee from South Sudan, won the race with a record time of 17 minutes. He also dreams of becoming a future Olympian just like the members of the Refugee Olympic Team. “I hope to qualify and represent refugees in the next Olympics,” he said.

5 Km marathon flag off in Kakuma town. Photo UNHCR/C.Opile

The 5 Km marathon flag off in Kakuma town. Photo UNHCR/C.Opile

 

At the end, contestants were presented with trophies to celebrate their accomplishment. The refugee teams won all the games. Similar games will take place in Dadaab refugee camp and Nairobi.

The participation of so many refugee athletes in the games, along with their success was a clear indication that beyond the five refugees competing in Rio, Kakuma is bursting with talent.

“We are very proud that 5 members of the Refugee Olympic Team are from Kakuma,” said Honorine Sommet-Lange, Head of Sub-Office-Kakuma. “The participation of refugees in the Olympics shows the world that refugees are people like us.”

The Head of Sub-Office Kakuma added that refugees have dreams and skills and that the international community should help refugees fulfil these dreams. “With the availability of funds, UNHCR will be able to identify more talented refugees to participate competitively in other games.” She concluded.

As of 31 July 2016, Kakuma camp had a population of 158,253 refugees and asylum-seekers, majority of whom are from South Sudan.