Updates on Sponsor our Yoga and Sport For Refugees GYM

Update posted by Estelle Jean On Mar 18, 2020

We have to admit; the last few weeks have not been easy. This is the consequence of a very tense climate from some of Lesvos locals towards the refugee population, the NGOs and their volunteers. At some point we even had to decide to temporarily close the gym. Luckily only for 2 days, we were determined to open again as soon as possible.

We want everyone to be safe, we want ALL the people in Lesvos to be safe.

We don't want anymore violence, anymore tear gas, anymore aggressions and bad words.
In our gym we offer a safe space. We welcome as many people as possible to build their strength, mentally and physically, and to feel normal and alive.

These women and girls, boys and men are strong, resilient, proud and careful. They come to this club to train, to challenge themselves. They come to feel that they are a part of this place and that they are responsible for it.

We all come from different farewell horizons but we always find words, moves, expressions to understand each other, teach each other and learn from each other. We give the best of ourselves, and we come out in the cold, rain or heat every time. Not just for the sake of our
training, but because we know we have to be there for each other. It's not only about the sport, it's about being a team, being a family.

In these difficult times there is nothing more important than continuing our work and continue giving motivation.

#strongertogether #refugeeswelcome #nohumanisillegal #noviolence #europemustact #euwhereareyou #opentheborders #opentheislands #motivation #yogasportforrefugees #ysfr #sport #community #team #fitness #yoga #love #chooselove

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Update posted by Dídac Navarro On Oct 28, 2019

Alfa is from Senegal. He left his home country in 2018 in order to escape the civil war. His plan was to reach Europe and start a new life there. He crossed more than eight countries in order to arrive to Turkey and made the perilous journey over to Lesvos by dinghy, ending up in Moria, the notorious refugee camp where he lived for over 10 months. In Moria he would spend all of his days hopeless and alone, waiting for his asylum interview with nothing to do apart from standing in line every day for food. Suffering from depression, insomnia and psychological issues, he would go to the camp’s clinic in order to be treated for his problems. In February 2019, Alfa spoke to Louis, a worker at the clinic, about his love of exercising and boxing and was told about the gym at Yoga and Sport For Refugees.

It was on the very same day that I received a phone-call from Louis asking if I could personally welcome Alfa to the gym. As most men attending the gym were from Afghanistan*, Louis sensed that Alfa would feel more at ease if there was someone to explain things to him in French and introduce him to everyone. When I arrived at the gym I spotted him immediately. Very muscular and tall he stood waiting for me with a discreet smile. We started conversing in French immediately.

After showing him the fitness machines and the class schedule I introduced him to Majid, the Afghan teacher running the Muay Thai boxing class. I asked Alfa if he wanted to join the class right away, but he seemed reluctant. When I told him I would give him sport clothes which he could keep and come to class every day, his eyes lit up. That day not only he completed the Muay Thai class, which was quite tough for him as he hadn’t practiced sports for a long time, but he also did some weight lifting. At the end of the class, sweating and out of breath, he told me he would come again and wanted to know when the next class would be.

From that day onwards Alfa would come to the YSFR gym almost every day except for when he had his weekly appointment with the psychologist. He would spend three hours with us every afternoon, and as the days went by the guys from Afghanistan who at the beginning had almost no interaction with him started to talk to him and at some point even asked him to be their bodybuilding teacher. To their repeated requests, Alfa would always politely reply: “I’m sorry but I can’t, you already have a teacher, and only he has the ability to teach”.

During the two months he spent with us, I saw Alfa becoming happier, more motivated, relaxed and active than he had ever been since arriving at Lesvos. Then I did not see him for an entire week and started wondering what had happened to him. A few days later my phone rang: “Hello Estelle, I’ve been moved to Athens, and I wanted to hear how you are. Also, I wanted to thank you for motivating me again. Now I do sports every day, wherever I am.” When we finished the call I had tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face. It was so heartening to know that coming to the gym had meant to him so much and that it had helped him deal with the unrelenting misfortunes of his young life.

Alfa is still living in Athens, where he continues to wait for refugee status. He hasn’t got any friends and is very lonely, but he continues to exercise daily hoping that one day he will be able to live a normal life again.

Estelle JEAN, YSFR Director


* 70% of the refugee population on the island is from Afghanistan (Source: ACNUR, Lesvos Weekly Snapshot 23 - 29 September 2019).

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