'Become the Light' campaign Credit: International Olympic Committee
'Become the Light' campaign Credit: International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have launched the 'Become the Light' campaign to bring light and solar energy to refugee camps.

The physical activity of athletes from around the world will be ''transformed'' into light for refugees as part of the campaign 'Become the Light', launched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The project will provide sustainable energy through solar panels to the Mahama refugee camp in Ruanda, where over 55,000 people who fled violence in Burundi do not have adequate access to electricity and are forced to stop all their activities whenever the sun goes down.

 Sports transformed into light for refugees

 "Today there are four million refugees living in more than 230 refugee camps worldwide without access to adequate lighting,'' a UNHCR statement notes. "It can be dangerous for refugees to do even the most mundane of activities like walking to the washroom or going to see a friend, especially for women and girls who are exposed to a significant risk of sexual and gender-based violence". In the Mahama camp, "at 6 p.m. when the sun sets the entire camp races home and communal life ends. Perhaps most tragically, refugee students in the camp can't do their homework, study or read". Faced with these needs, the IOC came up with the idea of supporting refugees through sports. "The campaign invites participants to make a 'donation' of their physical activity, recorded through the Olympic Channel,'' the IOC said in a statement. ''In keeping with the campaign theme of 'light', the IOC will convert recorded activity into tangible support for refugees, by providing sustainable, solar powered lighting solutions for the Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda".

Energy as opportunity for youths in refugee camps

"Sport can be a lifeline for young refugees uprooted by conflict and violence, forced to abandon their homes, communities and even their families,'' High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. "Sport restores childhood. It helps to heal and restore a sense of normalcy, offering a safe space where children can grow, learn and develop. By providing sustainable, solar powered lighting in refugee camps, we can boost sport and education opportunities for young refugees". The campaign will ''accumulate energy'' from athletes from around the world until the inauguration of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February 2018. "Sport is about building bridges, bringing people together in the spirit of friendship and respect,'' underscored IOC chairman Thomas Bach. "In a world of uncertainties, the message that our shared humanity is greater than the forces that divide us is more relevant than ever before. Athletes carry the light and inspire us, giving us all hope that a better world is possible".


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