Inclusion took center stage in Seville, Spain on April 25, 2024, as Special Olympics Andalusia soccer players and refugees from a local refugee reception center came together for an exhibition match. They were joined by more than 250 local physical education students who enthusiastically cheered on the participants.

this ‘United with refugeesThis event was made possible thanks to the support of a group of partners including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), espnThe National Ministry of Integration, Social Security and Migration, the City of Seville, and the Seville Refugee Reception Center (CAR).

Special Olympics United Refugees, Senior Advisor Gerald Mbali He said: “First and foremost, I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Lions Clubs for their long-standing global support, UNHCR, ESPN, the city authorities of Seville and all those involved. Your support and friendship have been invaluable in making this event a special one.” . reality.

“The message of inclusion, acceptance and breaking down barriers that Special Olympics athletes champion here resonates around the world.

“Special thanks to the Central African Republic as well, and congratulations on the amazing work you are doing. Finally, I would like to express gratitude to the wonderful students who joined us, and offered their support to our athletes and refugees.”

First launched in 2016, United with Refugees is a collaborative effort between Special Olympics, LCIF and UNHCR, among a group of partners. This initiative aims to provide a path to community and acceptance for two of the most marginalized groups in the world. Over the past eight years, athletes with intellectual disabilities have played an important role in reaching refugees and helping them integrate into their new communities through their participation in Unified Sports Events.

Houria Bouchnafa, UNHCR Protection Assistant, added: “We are very happy to be here to support Special Olympics and the Seville city authorities.

“With the participation of Special Olympics and refugee athletes, we successfully promoted true inclusivity and gender equality in sport at this event. Sport transcends borders and has global resonance.”

Four people holding a torch pose for a photo and stand on a football field, with chairs in the background

SOEE’s Gerald Mbali, Gonzalo Ramos, Central African Republic Director Francisco Jesús Cano and UNHCR Protection Assistant Houria Bouchnafa carry the Special Olympics torch

Special Olympics Spain has played a pioneering role in implementing this initiative throughout the Europe and Eurasia region. Through strong partnerships with local entities, it addresses the specific needs of refugees while promoting inclusive inclusion. The program provides refugees with linguistic and cultural support, while Special Olympics works to educate communities and create new opportunities for integration.

“The event proposed by our Special Olympics Refugees builds on our successful collaboration from previous years, which our residents have loved,” said Francisco Jesús Cano, Director of Seville in the Central African Republic.

“Every NGO and association operates with a clear mission and vision, and Special Olympics’ focus on using sport for integration aligns perfectly with our values.

“Sports is a universal language that transcends backgrounds and abilities. This initiative is very important to us, and we intend to organize it again next year.”

Francisco Fernandez, President of Lions Clubs Sevilla, added: “We express our gratitude to all partners whose cooperation made this inclusive event ‘United with Refugees’ possible. Initiatives such as these reinforce global solidarity and embody the mission of Lions Clubs International.”

“Wherever there is a need, Leon stands ready to provide assistance and support. We extend our thanks to Special Olympics and all participants involved.”


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