“Sport can change the life of a refugee child”
“I had never been to a refugee camp before. I had never had the opportunity to see the reality of its inhabitants’ everyday lives. Last April, with Peace and Sport, I visited the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan as part of the “Live Together” program for Syrian children. The program is not new, but for me it was a first. The WAKO kickboxing training I led was made possible thanks to Espen Lund, WAKO IF First Vice President whom I would like to thank for his commitment to the program.
In Za’atari, I had the chance to explore the camp, meet young people and children, talk to them and listen to them. And I was especially lucky to spend two days with Ali, the kickboxing coach for the “Live Together” program. His group has between 50 and 100 people ranging from 4 to 50 years old. He does incredible work with them. We exchanged ideas on how to make his training sessions and teaching techniques evolve, thinking of new activities for these young refugees to achieve. For them, kickboxing can become more than just a sport; it can also be a way of life.
In a camp like this, children do not have much to do. They can quickly feel unfulfilled. Sport not only offers them an activity and a goal to attain, it can also teach them values. Combat sports in particular teach respect and give them a taste for effort. They help to build confidence and self-esteem. For refugee children, the impact of sport is considerable. It can change their whole life. It can transform them as people.
Christian Karembeu, another Champion for Peace, expressed the same sentiment a year earlier when he visited the same Za’atari camp: these refugees are above all people who have had less luck or opportunities than others. In Jordan, I met children full of life and spirit. I felt their emotions. During my stay in the camp, I tried to help them get a foothold back into normal life. I know that sport can help, provided they have the possibility to try it. With programs like “Live Together”, Peace and Sport gives them this in a concrete and sustainable way.
I always wanted to give back to sport all that it has brought me. Even before the end of my international career, marked by 10 world titles, I made the decision to get involved and pass on the values of sport, especially to young people. I consider this a responsibility and a chance. I want to use my experience, reputation and knowledge to set an example. Sport has made me what I am. It has given me confidence and a work ethic. It is now up to me to pass on everything it has taught me to others.
Since my visit to the Za’atari camp last April, I still keep in contact with the coach, Ali. We talk to each other almost every week on social media. We talk about his program, his sessions and his vision of kickboxing. I would like to have the opportunity to return to the camp if possible before the end of the year and at the latest next year for April 6, the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
I’ve already begun a new stage in my engagement in the Za’atari camp. Specifically for women. For religious reasons, it’s impossible for me to train them. But I would like to bring at least one female coach on board to teach them self-defence. Sport is not just an integration tool. It can also help sexual equality.”