Young Refugees Find Hope in Sports Practice


Petar Ristic loves basketball. He used to be a member of the junior national basketball team of the former Yugoslavia. Now at age 40 he is a coach sharing his love of the game with kids. Last year he went on a trip to Southeast Bangladesh with his partner who is working for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.) What he found in the two camps he visited near the border with Myanmar took him aback.

In the Rohingya refugees camps of Nayapara and Kutupalong, despite the genuine efforts of the UNHCR team members, he was met with despair and boredom, especially coming from the children who make up half of the 28,000 Muslim refugees. Most of them were born in the camps. The lack of education and other opportunities gave them a lot of frustration.

Petar, known as Pero in the camps, knew he could help them because in his home country after the war, the children needed special attention. Through sports, he was able to teach them vital skills they needed to succeed in life. “Why not here?” he thought. He started a basketball program with 25 kids but couldn’t imagine the snowball effect he was about to create.

Fast forward one year later. Petar is now teaching table tennis, volleyball, basketball and football to 700 girls and boys of all ages, including disabled children. He has been hired by a NGO from which he gets sports equipments. Even the police of the camp can be found kicking the ball with the kids. By practicing organized sports, the children learn important life skills like working together and respecting each other. The sports field also provides a safe place for them to talk about their problems. Now they have hope and dreams. Via

Next week is World Refugee Week. You can donate to help the UNHCR provide better living conditions for refugees before they can find a new place to live. Petar Ristic is doing his part in Bangladesh. What can you do from your computer?

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