UNHCR and IOC launch sportswear collection drive for refugees
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala, July 9 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have launched a campaign aimed at collecting thousands of items of sportswear for distribution to refugees and displaced people around the world.
IOC President Jacques Rogge started the ball rolling by handing over a bag full of sports clothes to Marion Hoffmann, UNHCR representative for Mexico, Cuba and Central America, during the official launch ceremony of the second "Giving is Winning" campaign here on Friday.
"It fills me with happiness seeing this promising project kicked off. A project that will bring hope and joy to thousands of refugees on different continents."
The campaign is linked to next year's Beijing Olympic Games and aims to fill 10 containers - each 20-foot wide - with sports clothes. These will be distributed in 10 different camps and organizers hope this will bring a little joy to refugees through sport.
The first "Giving is Winning" campaign coincided with the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and gathered nearly 30,000 items of sports clothing. These were distributed to refugees across three continents.
"We saw in the course of the first 'Giving is Winning' campaign in Athens in 2004, just what a difference the Olympic Games made to the daily lives of refugees," Hoffmann said, referring to youngsters who followed the games in camps around the world. "For once, they felt they were not forgotten. For once, the glory of sports rubbed off on them and made them feel important."
UNHCR and the IOC hope that this campaign will be even more successful than the first one. The initial signs look good - three National Olympic Committees are already on board and have made donations that will help refugees in camps in Chad and Rwanda.
Many more members of the Olympic family - such as athletes, officials, and sponsors - have expressed their wish to get involved.
"We will continue, through different activities, to assist those who are ravaged by war and disease, disadvantaged and marginalized. This campaign is an excellent example of how the IOC and its partners can help sport bring a little joy to people living very difficult lives," Rogge said.