Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

#TeamRefugees

At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, a unique team of ten refugees participated for the first time in international competition. Their participation clearly showed that bravery knows no borders.

To honor their participation and the struggle of refugees and displaced people around the world to survive and prosper, every day during the Olympics I posted an image on my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) with the hashtag #teamrefugees imposed on the photo. Here are those 17 images, all in one place.

Children play football during an October 2012 rainstorm in the Doro refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile State. More than 110,000 refugees had come to camps in Maban County from Sudan's Blue Nile region, where the Sudanese military was bombing civilian populations as part of its response to a local insurgency. (Paul Jeffrey)

Refugee children from Sudan’s Blue Nile region play football in a camp inside South Sudan.

Children play in a settlement of Syrian refugees in Minyara, a village in the Akkar district of northern Lebanon. Lebanon hosts some 1.5 million refugees from Syria, yet allows no large camps to be established. So refugees have moved into poor neighborhoods or established small informal settlements in border areas. International Orthodox Christian Charities, a member of the ACT Alliance, provides support for families in this settlement. (Paul Jeffrey)

Syrian refugee children running in a refugee camp in Minyara, Lebanon.

Displaced by war, a boy does a handstand in Agok, a town in the contested Abyei region where tens of thousands of people fled in 2011 after an attack by soldiers and militias from the northern Republic of Sudan on most parts of Abyei. Although the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement called for residents of Abyei--which sits on the border between Sudan and South Sudan--to hold a referendum on whether they wanted to align with the north or the newly independent South Sudan, the government in Khartoum and northern-backed Misseriya nomads, excluded from voting as they only live part of the year in Abyei, blocked the vote and attacked the majority Dinka Ngok population. The African Union has proposed a new peace plan, including a referendum to be held in October 2013, but it has been rejected by the Misseriya and Khartoum. The Catholic parish of Abyei, with support from Caritas South Sudan and other international church partners, has maintained its pastoral presence among the displaced and assisted them with food, shelter, and other relief supplies. (Paul Jeffrey)

A boy displaced by military attacks on Abyei, the contested border region between Sudan and South Sudan, does a handstand in the displaced settlement in Agok.

Boys learn gymnastics and circus skills as part of a psycho-social program run by Finn Church Aid in the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan. Established in 2012 as Syrian refugees poured across the border, the camp held more than 80,000 refugees by early 2015, and was rapidly evolving into a permanent settlement. Finn Church Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, which provides a variety of services to refugees living in the camp. (Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance)

Children from Syria learn gymnastic skills in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. (This is the boys’  group; a similar program exists for girls but I couldn’t photograph it.)

Refugees travel in a rubber boat across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos on October 30, 2015. They were received on a beach near Molyvos by local and international volunteers, then proceeded on their way toward western Europe. The boat was provided by Turkish traffickers to whom the refugees paid huge sums to arrive in Greece. Yet the motor quit during the crossing and the refugees were forced to paddle for several hours. (Paul Jeffrey)

Refugees paddle across the Aegean Sea on their way from Turkey to Greece. They landed on the island of Lesbos.

A boy kicks the ball over his head as children play football along the beach in Gaza. Although the Palestinian territory fronts the sea, Gazans are not allowed to venture more than two kilometers from shore without coming under fire from Israeli gunboats.. (Paul Jeffrey)

A boy on the beach in Gaza, where 1.25 million Palestinians refugees live, more than half a million of them crowded into eight recognized camps that have one of the highest population densities in the world.

A girl skips rope in the Dereig Camp for internally displaced persons, one of many such settlements for people displaced by the violence in Darfur. (Paul Jeffrey)

A girl skips rope in the Dereig camp for displaced families in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Boys get exercise as part of a psycho-social program run by the Lutheran World Federation in the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan. Established in 2012 as Syrian refugees poured across the border, the camp held more than 80,000 refugees by early 2015, and was rapidly evolving into a permanent settlement. The Lutheran World Federation is a member of the ACT Alliance, which provides a variety of services to refugees living in the camp. (Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance)

Syrian children exercise as part of a psycho-social program in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

A boy plays volleyball inside a camp for internally displaced families in Yei, South Sudan. The camp holds Nuer families who took refuge there in December 2013 after a political dispute within the country's ruling party quickly fractured the young nation along ethnic and tribal lines. The ACT Alliance is providing psycho-social services in the camp, including safe places for children to enjoy being children. (Paul Jeffrey)

A boy plays volleyball inside a camp for internally displaced families in Yei, South Sudan. The country has been torn by violence since 2013 when a political dispute within the country’s ruling party quickly fractured the young nation along ethnic and tribal lines.

Four-year old Mashad kicks the ball to his 7-year old sister, Farah, in a city park in Belgrade, Serbia. They are refugees from Syria, and with their family fled that nation for western Europe. This park has filled with refugees from several countries stopping over on their way to Germany, Sweden, Holland, and elsewhere. The ACT Alliance has provided critical support for refugee and migrant families here and in other places along their journey. Parental consent obtained. (Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance)

Four-year old Mashad kicks the ball to his 7-year old sister, Farah, in a city park in Belgrade, Serbia. They are refugees from Syria, and with their family fled that nation for western Europe.

A woman laughs as she carries water through the Gendrassa refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile State. More than 110,000 refugees were living in four camps in Maban County in October 2012, but officials expected more would arrive once the rainy season ended and people could cross rivers that block the routes from Sudan's Blue Nile area, where Sudanese military has been bombing civilian populations as part of its response to a local insurgency. Conditions in the camps are often grim, with outbreaks of diseases such as Hepatitis E. (Paul Jeffrey)

A woman who fled brutal government bombing in Sudan’s Blue Nile area carries water through the Gendrassa refugee camp inside South Sudan.

A boy at play in a camp for internally displaced people outside Um Labassa in Sudan's Darfur region. (Paul Jeffrey)

A boy plays in a camp for internally displaced people outside Um Labassa in Sudan’s Darfur region. We use the term “internally displaced people” for people who have had to flee their homes but haven’t crossed an international border. They share a lot in common with refugees, and often times are worse off because they lack the legal status of recognized refugees.

An 11-year old boy rides his bike amid the ruins of Khan Yunis, Gaza. Houses in the area were destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the 2014 war between the state of Israel and the Hamas government of Gaza. (Paul Jeffrey)

An 11-year old boy rides his bike amid the ruins of Khan Yunis, Gaza. Houses in the neighborhood were destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2014, forcing tens of thousands of Gaza residents, many of them already refugees for decades, to flee for “relatively” safer areas.

Ajay Galuak Akoy, 10, carries water in Bor, a city in South Sudan's Jonglei State that has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent months between the country's military and anti-government rebels. After fighting broke out in mid December 2013, control of the town changed hands four times in a few weeks. ACT Alliance members were among the first humanitarian agencies to enter the city in January 2014, and are providing services to thousands of people who are cautiously returning home to the troubled city. Akoy's water container was included in a packet of essential household supplies her family received. It was provided by Dan Church Aid and distributed by the Lutheran World Federation. Both organizations are members of the ACT Alliance. (Paul Jeffrey)

Ajay Galuak Akoy, 10, carries water in Bor, a city in South Sudan that was the scene of fierce fighting in late 2013 and early 2014 between the country’s military and anti-government rebels. Control of the town changed hands four times in a few weeks. Akoy’s family was repeatedly displaced by the fighting.

Yanira Lopez walks her daughter Melany home from school in San Antonio, Texas, on November 30, 2015. Lopez and her three children fled Guatemala early in 2015 to escape violence linked to drug trafficking. After requesting political asylum in the United States, they were held for several days by immigration officials and then released. Lopez today volunteers at a shelter for refugee families sponsored by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and supported by a coalition of San Antonio churches. It's the shelter that hosted her and her children when they were released from detention. (Paul Jeffrey)

Yanira Lopez walks her daughter Melany home from school in Texas. When drug traffickers began threatening her children in Guatemala, Lopez escaped with three kids and journeyed northward through Mexico to the United States, where she has requested political asylum.

Early in the morning, boys run amid the tents in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, located near Mafraq, Jordan. Opened in July, 2012, the camp holds upwards of 50,000 refugees from the civil war inside Syria, but its numbers are growing. International Orthodox Christian Charities and other members of the ACT Alliance are active in the camp providing essential items and services. (Paul Jeffrey)

Two Syrian boys race through rows of tents early one morning in the huge Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

Girls hurry to school in the Dereig Camp for internally displaced persons. (Paul Jeffrey)

Girls hurry to school in the Dereig Camp for internally displaced persons in the Darfur region of Sudan. IDPs are also refugees, but haven’t crossed an international border, and so lack much of the legal protection and humanitarian assistance available to refugees.

What I love about this final image is how it captures the excitement of girls to receive an education in a culture and context that have often make that difficult, if not impossible. This desire to survive and succeed is what characterizes the struggle of refugees and displaced people everywhere, and why so many found #TeamRefugees to be such an inspiration. May you all run and not grow weary.

 

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