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Beijing Olympic athletes get the chance to give hope to refugees

News Stories, 4 August 2008

© UNHCR Beijing
UNHCR Representative in China, Veerapong Vongvarotai, makes a symbolic donation of sports clothing to the "Giving is Winning" campaign in the Beijing Olympic Village.

BEIJING, CHINA, Aug. 4 (UNHCR) The opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is still days away, but in the Olympic Village, athletes already have the chance to prove themselves winners for refugees.

The UN refugee agency and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched the "Giving is Winning" Campaign in the Olympic Village last Friday (Aug. 1) to encourage athletes and national Olympic Committees to give surplus sportswear to refugees in Asia.

"Refugee youth have often suffered terribly and witnessed war first hand," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in Geneva. "Some refugees are born in camps; others grow up in camps, which can mean a lifetime with little or no access to sport or recreation. The gift of sportswear from Olympic athletes around the globe inspires refugees and connects them to the world of sports. Beyond happiness it brings them hope."

In the past year, in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, the initial goal of collecting 50,000 items of sports clothing has nearly been met. The items collected so far have been distributed to refugees in Rwanda, Tanzania, Chad, Moldova, Georgia and Panama

"I am thrilled by this success and the strong support of the Olympic Family so far," IOC President Jacques Rogge said at last Friday's ceremony. "Of course we want to go much higher now the bigger impact we can make with this campaign, the better. I am convinced that with our common efforts we can collect many more items."

Former Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka, now chairman of the IOC Athletes Commission said it should be easy to meet the goal, with more than 10,000 athletes participating in the Games.

"I am confident that many of my colleagues will recognize the value of this project and be eager to contribute," Bubka said. "It really is so easy to participate. Sport has given a lot to all of us and it is great to be able to give back a bit by bringing joy to refugees."

Far too many young refugees spend years languishing in bleak camps around the world, UNHCR's Regional Representative for China and Mongolia, Veerapong Vongvarotai said at the launch ceremony.

"For them the gift of sportswear associated with famous athletes from across the Olympic spectrum can be an enormous morale-booster and a sign that the world does care," he said. "A sport uniform inspires refugees and connects them to the world of sport."

The "Giving is Winning" initiative was first established at the Athens Olympics in 2004 when more than 30,000 items were collected to support sports among young refugees in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Kosovo and Tanzania.




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Giving is Winning

Athletes donate sports clothes and equipment.

International Olympic Committee

UNHCR and the International Olympic Committee have worked together for years.

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UNHCR Tents Reaching Earthquake Survivors in China

The UN refugee agency has provided 11,000 urgently needed tents to China to help with emergency shelter for some of the 5 million people left homeless after the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12, 2008.

The tents, which were manufactured in China for UNHCR, have been transported to the quake zone. The first 2,000 tents were airlifted to the zone and arrived in Chengdu on May 25 and the remaining 9,000 arrived not long after. These tents can provide shelter for 55,000 people. They have been distributed in the cities of Aba, Deyang and Guangyuan, close to the epicentre of the quake.

Posted on 4 June 2008

UNHCR Tents Reaching Earthquake Survivors in China

The World's Stateless: A photo essay by Greg Constantine

Nationality might seem like a universal birthright, but it is estimated that up to 12 million people around the world are struggling to get along without it. They do not possess a nationality nor enjoy its legal benefits. They fall into a legal limbo; they are stateless. This often leaves them unable to do the basic things most people take for granted such as registering the birth of a child, travelling, going to school, opening a bank account or owning property.

Statelessness has a variety of causes. Some populations were excluded from citizenship at the time of independence from colonial rule. Others fall victim to mass denationalization. In some countries, women cannot confer nationality on their children. Sometimes, because of discrimination, legislation fails to guarantee citizenship for certain ethnic groups.

The problem is global. Under its statelessness mandate, UNHCR is advising stateless people on their rights and assisting them in acquiring citizenship. At the government level, it is supporting legal reform to prevent people from becoming stateless. With partners it undertakes citizenship campaigns to help stateless people to acquire nationality and documentation.

Photographer Greg Constantine is an award-winning photojournalist from the United States. In 2005, he moved to Asia and began work on his project, "Nowhere People," which documents the plight of stateless people around the world. His work has received a number of awards, including from Pictures of the Year International, NPPA Best of Photojournalism, the Amnesty International Human Rights Press Awards (Hong Kong), the Society of Publishers in Asia, and the Harry Chapin Media Award for Photojournalism. Greg was a co-winner of the Osborn Elliot Prize for Journalism in Asia, presented annually by the Asia Society. Work from "Nowhere People" has been widely published and exhibited in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Switzerland, Ukraine, Hong Kong and Kenya. He is based in Southeast Asia.

The World's Stateless: A photo essay by Greg Constantine

UNHCR donates tents for China's earthquake victimsPlay video

UNHCR donates tents for China's earthquake victims

The May 12 earthquake in China's Sichuan province caused widespread destruction and death. UNHCR is responding by donating thousands of tents to help give displaced families some shelter while they rebuild their homes.