Yoga and Sport With Refugees (YSR) was born in October 2017 on the island of Lesvos, Greece, in response to the massive need for healthy safe spaces, the sense of community and a place to work on mental and physical health. In September 2020, we expanded to Athens. Through cooperation with Habibi Works and KOIZ Centre for Postcolonial Studies, we started Habibi and Sport with Refugees in Ioannina in 2021. Every day we offer more than 20 different sports activities to approximately 400 people. Our model is unique with over 70 of our past and current coaches coming from a refugee background.
Through sport, we bring people together and foster hope. Sports can break ethnic and religious barriers, thus creating a safe meeting space for cooperation between cultures where everyone participates and becomes a family. We work together to build people’s skills by promoting an environment conducive to continuous learning throughout our organization. Our teams are intentionally diverse – comprised of volunteers from the international, Greek, and refugee community alike – so that we can learn from each other and become truly #STRONGERTOGETHER.
We believe in the power of sport; that it has the power to change someone’s life. Through sport, people develop strength, hope, community, and everlasting friendship. Therefore, we believe that sport can play an integral role in breaking down barriers and facilitating successful integration into Europe.
YSR empowers refugees to believe in themselves and their dreams through their strength! We aim to improve their mental and physical health, build important skills, and create community together through yoga activities and sports such as gym training, running, swimming classes, martial arts, dance, and climbing, among others. In all of our activities, our community is in the lead because we believe that agency is central to empowerment.
Our community is diverse, encompassing many different groups such as refugee women, unaccompanied minors, single men, and people with disabilities. Through community, we hope to help them build skills for their future, better their mental and physical health, and facilitate pathways for integration into European society. However, this is not possible if the Greek and international volunteer community is not also involved. Therefore, we encourage participation from the local population and international volunteers to better connect and integrate people of all origins. We are actively building partnerships with other actors and local sport clubs to develop a strong, multicultural community united through sport.