Update posted by Melissa Barnetche On Feb 07


No matter what, we continue to run and train for these year’s goals. The first race of 2020 will be in March and our aim is to run every competition in Lesvos and run a marathon at the end of the year. We want to start a women’s running group and reach out to more and more refugees stranded in the island while they idly wait for their asylum claims to be considered.

Why do we run in the midst of a refugee crisis?

Running not only helps us get healthier and feel better, but it helps our mental health. And this is incredibly important in a place where psychosocial support barely exists.

The situation in the infamous Moria camp in Lesvos, which has a maximum capacity of 2,840 people, has reached unprecedented levels of overcrowding and violence. Asylum seekers keep being forced to flee war, violence, and persecution, and new arrivals to the Greek islands are constant. There’s now over 20,000 people in Moria camp, all living in appalling conditions which deteriorate of their already vulnerable physical and mental health. (Click HERE for further information).

The asylum seekers include people who have been subjected to extreme forms of torture and violence, both in their countries of origin and during their journey. They have been severely traumatised, both mentally and physically. In the camps, they are forced to live in a context that promotes frequent violence in all its forms – including sexual and gender-based violence that affects children and adults. This constant violence triggers the development of severe psychiatric symptoms, including suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. People in Moria camp are unable to meet their most basic everyday needs, such as sleeping, eating, or maintaining personal hygiene.

Leaving the camp to join the Yoga and Sports for Refugees community alleviates, at least for a few hours per day, the soul-crushing circumstances they’re forced to endure.

When we’re overwhelmed with anxiety and depression, running helps us shift our attention from our frustrations and problems to focus on the goal of completing our training, taking our thinking and emotions out of the trench of negativity. While running, we can think about things in a different way, being able to process our thoughts differently.

Regular runners can hold a good pace for a long time and that allows the physiological processes that lead to improved mood to happen. Besides, the daily effort to go for a run - which can be especially difficult when dealing with depression and other mental health issues our refugee community suffers - is already beneficial. Success in going for a run on an especially tough day makes it easier to get out the next time, thus getting into the habit of running. By running on a daily basis, refugees regain some control of their situation and well-being, and feel empowered.

Lacing up and hitting the mountains is a great way to break free from self-defeating and recurrent negative thoughts, and we do this together, supporting one another by showing up for our group run. On a daily basis, running reminds us that together, we can overcome apathy and stagnation, and experiencing these small victories helps us convince ourselves that progress is possible, that change is possible, that a better future is possible. We all have the right to a better life!

Help us support the refugee community in Lesvos.


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