As the first international sports federation to establish a refugee team, and following the work done with the Kids’ Athletics programme, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has marked World Refugee Day (20 June) by highlighting how crucial it is that the sport continues to widen its reach.Earlier this year, in collaboration with World Athletics, a four-day Kids’ Athletics workshop was held at the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei integrated settlements in north-western Kenya as part of the larger Athletics and Education programme implemented by AHEEN (African Higher Education in Emergencies Network).AHEEN, a network of African institutions, aims to keep young people that are in refugee communities in school and education, informed by principles of physical, social, cognitive and emotional wellbeing and sports science. On board for the workshop were UNHCR and Youth Education and Sports (YES), a refugee-led organisation that supports the development of sport and education for young people in the refugee context. Based in Kakuma, YES is a member of the AHEEN network.Following the workshop, 23 teachers from four refugee schools and one from the host community applied their learning and delivered a fun event for 125 children. They were assisted by the U20 Athlete Refugee Team, a team supported by World Athletics as part of the AHEEN Athletics & Education programme.“As the most universally accessible sport, it is vital that we reach down to the grassroots level to children across the globe to get them inspired about athletics. This is especially true in reaching young people who are displaced or in challenging situations outside their control. Our Kids’ Athletics programme is the perfect vehicle to enable this by providing the flexibility we need to work with communities like the Kakuma Refugee Camp,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.

“Taking Kids’ Athletics to these settings makes it much more than a sport programme. With a holistic approach, it combines social, emotional and mental health elements to promote a sense of wellbeing, and this is at the heart of our project in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. This is what Kids’ Athletics stands for.

“There can be no doubt as to the importance of Africa to our sport. The depth of athletics talent on the African continent is unparalleled. It is our duty as the global governing body of athletics to implement programmes like Kids’ Athletics to ensure that every child – including those who find themselves in refugee camps such as Kakuma – is offered the same chance to reach the highest echelons of our sport.

“World Athletics will always look to expand our sport in Africa through grassroots outreach, the development of sporting infrastructure across the region, and the hosting of athletics events.”

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