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, a 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 as well as sport activities in Paris in the summer of 2022. Across our four locations, we have adopted a unique model that is focused on putting our community in the lead, which is why we have had over 70 different sport coaches coming with a refugee background.
The refugee crisis began in 2015, following a dramatic increase of people fleeing persecution, war and danger, particularly from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Kongo, Egypt and more. Since then, every day, people have been taking dangerous routes, deemed illegal by EU authorities, in order to cross international borders, to reach Europe. Despite the drastic need for hospitality towards internationally displaced people, the EU has enforced strict, oppressive and inhumane border regimes, which has left people displaced and abandoned in various hotspots, often for months, even years.
In such a context of injustice towards people on the move, YSR aims to make a positive impact on people’s lives. 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!