Yiech Pur Biel
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Yiech Pur Biel was announced as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in August 2020.
Pur is a South Sudanese refugee athlete currently living and studying in the United States. In 2005, Pur was forced to flee the war in South Sudan and leave his parents behind, arriving in Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya at only ten years old.
Pur developed a talent for football in the camp despite the challenges of intense heat and a distinct lack of sports facilities. His athletic ability was officially recognized during trials to identify refugee athletes, marking the beginning of Pur’s journey to the Olympics.
Pur and the Olympic Games
In 2016, Pur made history by competing for the first Refugee Olympic Team in the 800m event at the Rio Summer Olympics in Brazil. Speaking on the significance of this monumental moment, Pur shared: “I can show to my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life. Through education but also in running, you can change the world”.
Since Rio, Pur has competed in various sporting competitions, both in Kenya and around the world. He continues to represent refugees on the global athletics stage, most recently participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as part of the Refugee Olympic Team. He also competed at the 2019 Harmony Geneva Marathon, where he came 4th in the 10km elite race, and the 2018 African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria.
Pur is a board member of the Olympic Refugee Foundation, aiming to create safe and accessible sports facilities in areas with refugees and displaced communities. In 2020, he also served as manager of the Refugee Olympic Team.
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I can show to my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life. Through education but also in running, you can change the world.
Past highlights of Pur’s UNHCR support
Since his announcement as a Goodwill Ambassador, Pur has tirelessly supported UNHCR’s efforts, lending his own voice to represent the displaced community worldwide.
In 2022, Pur revisited Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya to speak about the power of sport in times of crisis.
At the Tokyo Olympic Games, held in 2021, Pur participated in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Zone to discuss how sport contributes to expanding efforts to tackle global issues.
Pur’s advocacy extends beyond the athletic sphere. In 2020, he read and reviewed Rosalind Russell’s novel The End of Where We Begin, chronicling the experiences of three young refugees from South Sudan.
A compelling speaker, Pur performed at the first-ever TedX event hosted in a refugee camp in 2018: TEDxKakuma. The same year, Pur used his voice to advocate for refugees at the South Sudan Peace Talks in Addis Ababa and Khartoum. Pur’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, and in 2018, he received the International Crisis Group’s Stephen J. Solarz Award at their ‘In Pursuit of Peace Award Dinner’ held in New York, alongside fellow Goodwill Ambassador and refugee Olympian Yusra Mardini.
Pur’s first field visit with UNHCR was to Paris in 2016, where he met with Mohammed el-Khaldy, a Syrian chef granted asylum in France. Together, they visited a program set up to send Christmas presents to refugee children.
Yiech Pur Biel's work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador
News and highlights
Find the latest news and key highlights about Pur's work as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.