When we do sport together, we are a family. We share values and goals. What’s important is the community, the team work, the striving.
Running is in everyone, we are all able to run. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, over and over again. Running is mental training, it builds resistance, endurance and agility, it helps you to think freely and order your thoughts. That is why we run, all together, as a team.
Yoga and Sports with Refugees offers a complete running schedule, including interval training, mountain runs, road runs, stadium training and the weekly long run on Saturday. The training always consists of a combination of exercises and running. We try to make the running training accessible for all different levels of running, from the very beginner to a 2:47 marathon runner (One of our runners in the Athens Marathon 2019!).
We compete in all the local running races and use these races to show the strength, passion and motivation of our runners to the local community and to interact with them. Races are also incredible for building team spirit and self-confidence and for offering a distraction from the time in the camp.
100% of refugees reached Lesvos by sea from Turkey in extremely dangerous conditions. Most do not know how to swim and many are seriously traumatized by deep water. YSR helps men, boys, women and girls reconcile with the sea and learn how to swim. Our amazing swimming coach from Iran teaches swimming with the help of international volunteers, always under the watchful eye of a lifeguard. In addition, swimmers can also enjoy leisure activities on Kara Tepe Beach. They can just have fun.
All team sports require values that are effective tools in integrating different cultures with the same objective – practicing the same sport together. Using teamwork, an activity helps creating community and a feeling of belonging to a group. This is an essential feeling in the situation of seeking asylum.
Our volleyball team has found the perfect balance between seriousness in training and fun to enjoy the time together. The team is made up of 16 players with a more than considerable level, and is led by our amazing community coach! However, the team is always ready to welcome new members, regardless of the level they present the most important is the attitude!
The basketball activity is open to everyone, we can’t say that there is a consolidated team. But thanks to this we can say that we have found the perfect tool to introduce everyone to the world of sport, where the most important thing is neither technique nor competitiveness. It’s simply about everyone having a good time together and not letting their bodies rust. It has become one of the activities where we can find more cultural diversity, and where men and women share spaces to enjoy sport together.
As one of the most popular sports in the world, football is one of the most successful activities we have. Our team consists of 20 players. They all share a passion for the sport and a desire to keep improving as players and as a team. The fact that we are a consolidated group does not exclude them from welcoming all those who want to be part of the team! They train 3 times a week with a passion and commitment that makes all of them an example of rigor and commitment!
Our yoga program seeks to calm down emotionally and mentally overwhelmed refugees by brightening daily life and distracting participants from negative thoughts. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a major cause of psychological strain and waiting for a therapist can take months. Yoga provides a welcome island of peace. Yoga at YSR introduces strangers to each other and creates community which often reaches back into the camps. Yoga helps develop self-knowledge and self-awareness, positive thinking and mindfulness, all of which ease stress and begin to build a safe home from within.
MARTIAL ARTS & BOXING
Martial arts have become one of the most important projects for us, being one of the activities with the highest number of participants. Everyday a lot of people participate; asylum seekers as well as volunteers. Contact sports are very important in the countries of origin of many asylum seekers and they practiced them before arriving in Europe. This allows them to resume an activity that they developed in their routine prior to their escape to survive. We want to practice together sports that we like, and martial arts represents a body and soul practice where sobriety and self-control are essential. These activities are translated benefits both physically and psychologically: it motivates discipline and emotional management; and a way to calm down and find peace amongst peers. Some martial arts that we do are: Wrestling, Kickboxing, Karate and Muay Thai.
SPORT FOR WOMEN
Women, being subjected to discrimination in all cultures are one of the most vulnerable groups in refugee camps and that is why we try to promote exclusive activities, designed for them; for their needs, enjoyment and development. It is important to create a safe space where we can all relax together, trust each other, share and have fun creating the community that allows us the universal language of sport. Therefore, we offer activities such as: yoga, self-defense, zumba, hip-hop, traditional dance, fitness, kick-boxing or swimming. We create a space where we can afford to leave aside the roles that society imposes on us and remain in a private space to do enjoyable activities.
Dance is a tool for expression, communication and inspiration on many levels. Not only is it a complete sport that allows us to put the whole body in motion, but it also allows us to feel accompanied by different music and to channel what we feel. Music and dance, present in all cultures, that we find ourselves dancing to allow us to build community through movement and allow us to be one and all through our similarities and our differences.
It is a vitally important activity as it allows us to offer the benefits of maintaining an active life to a group that may not feel an attraction to sports in general.
PARKOUR & WRESTLING
YSR community members love challenging themselves in parkour classes that improve their physical abilities, flexibility and psychology – to take risks and test the limits of their bodies! Parkour classes test individuals carefully, with the guidance and often the physical assistance of the coach. These classes often include children who love to try new movements. Parkour is also featured in our fun challenge days – everyone will attempt a special trick or jump – the best one wins!
GYM & BODYBUILDING
Our gym is one of the rare places offering sports for free. We have a great variety of people joining our activities and the female community in our gym is very strong and provides a space where people have to start building their future. Just like any other gym, many come to lift weights and build strength. YSR gyms also provide the community with clothing to ensure they have the right resources to be able to do exercise.
Climbing classes are always crazy fun at the YSR gyms! Climbing started through links with organisations that specialise in this sport. We have since added climbing walls into the Lesvos and Ioannina gyms, as well as incorporated climbing day activities in nearby areas on Lesvos island and near Ioannina. Climbing is done with the appropriate supervision and safety measures, but makes sure individuals – locals, camp residents, volunteers and anyone else interested – can step out of their comfort zones and try a new sport in a safe environment.
Acroyoga was introduced into YSR by amazing volunteers, who brought the practice to the island in fun and inclusive ways. Their initiative to begin teaching challenging poses brought many students to become more experienced and teach their own classes to other camp residents. Acroyoga – a practice that relies on partnership, trust, connection and listening – always brings laughter and enjoyment to YSR.
Yoga and Sports with Refugees does incredible work! The organization uses sports to help people find mental and physical strength in extremely difficult times. They facilitate programs and support athletes in all different types of sports. But truthfully, YSR is so much more than that. It’s a safe community, a place to belong, a place to find dignity, and meaning in difficult times. I am deeply inspired and impressed.
-Hilde Honerud, Non-Executive Board Member