“We do not want to see more refugees. It does not help us. We want them to go back home and become ambassadors of peace.”
Nairobi, Kenya, 25 October 2016 (UNHCR) – Ambassador Tegla Loroupe has been honoured as the 2016 UN Person of the Year in Kenya at a UN Staff Day commemoration event. Tegla had been proposed by the UN Refugee Agency for using her athletic prowess to promote peace-building in conflict zones and for her leadership in ensuring refugee participation in the 2016 Olympic Games for the first time in history.
Her journey with refugees began in 2014 when she took peace efforts to refugee camps in Kenya where she discovered a great interest in athletics among refugee communities.
In 2015, she petitioned the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to give refugees a chance to advance in their athletics careers by taking part in the Olympics. She then established an athletics training camp for refugees in Ngong, in the outskirts of Nairobi, which is run by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation. Her hope was to help produce Olympic talent that would unite the people of countries that are at war.
History was made in 2016 when the first ever Refugee Olympic Team was constituted. The team comprised of 10 refugees from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Five out of the 10 refugees came from Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. These five athletes were selected from among 20 others from the Tegla Loroupe training facility. The participation of refugees in the Olympics was a symbol of hope to over 65M displaced persons globally.
Speaking at the award ceremony at Gigiri Nairobi, Tegla emphasised on the role that each and every individual in the community plays to ensure there is peace. “We do not want to see more refugees. It does not help us. We want them to go back home and become ambassadors of peace.” She said.
The UNHCR Kenya Deputy Representative, Mr. Wella Kouyou who attended the event said that Tegla reminds us that refugees are human beings with capacity and aspirations just like anybody else. “With her efforts, Tegla challenges all of us to also do our part in finding durable solutions for refugees.”
The UN Staff Day is marked every year on 25th October, a day after the United Nations Day. The day was first observed in 1953 and it’s annually marked through the celebration of the courage, commitment and sacrifice of the men and women who have answered the noble call to become international civil servants.
On this day, exemplary individuals who have worked hand-in-hand with the UN towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals are also recognized.