We plan to distribute chess boards in the main refugee camp on the island of lesvos (Moria), organize a tournament, and give chess lessons in the YSFR gym. There are already many good players in the camps, and they are all very excited about the idea of a tournament. It really is a shame to see so much chess talents go to waste, as refugees barely have any boards to play onto. At the moment, we are in contact with the FIDE Social Commission; however, we would need more assistance with this project.
Through this project, we aim to improve refugees mental health in general. Chess will help them focus their energy on something productive, help them make friends and join a community of players, and help them with their future integration in European society.
In Lesvos, Greece, there currently are over 15000 refugees waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. These refugees are stranded on the island for many months, up to multiple years, and are placed in refugee camps with poor living conditions. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the island has not been very impacted, however the refugee camps have been under quarantine regulations since mid-March. The rest of the island is now free to move around, however, these health regulations are still enforced on all refugee camps. Therefore, life in the camps is not only difficult from a physical point of view, but it also is very mentally challenging. The space and hygiene in "Moria" camp are limited, and there are very few activities held to entertain or keep refugees moral going.
Recently, there have been more and more knife fights within the camps, exemplifying the current mental state of some refugees, hit by boredom, frustration, anxiety, and even depression. On a final note, many NGO’s providing mental health-oriented activities such as sports, creative activities, and even educational content have left the island due to extremist attacks against the refugees and volunteers prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and have yet to return due to the current quarantine regulations. YSFR (Yoga and Sport For Refugees) is now the main sports NGO on the island, and one of the only ones.
Yoga and Sport For Refugees
YSFR is based on the island of Lesvos and strives to empower refugees by providing them with regular sports activities (Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Martial Arts, Dancing, Yoga ...), but also through board games such as chess. As refugees can stay up to multiple years waiting to receive their refugee status, it is crucial for their physical and mental health to be able to go somewhere where they feel welcomed, to practice a discipline, be it sports or chess.
More information about the amazing work of Yoga and Sport for Refugees can be found on their main campaign page - https://gogetfunding.com/sponsor-our-yoga-and-sport-for-refugees-gym/ and also on their website - https://sportforrefugees.org/