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Running for Refugees: World Refugee Day with Cairo Runners

June 29, 2023
Photo Credit: World Refugee Day Run album from Cairo Runners’ official Facebook page

There are several ways to raise awareness for worthy causes, ranging from the heartfelt to the unconventional. Just ask anyone who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge back in the summer of 2014 — there are definitely some unique ways to conduct a memorable campaign.

But, even if every altruistic effort does not have the virality of the well known challenge, the causes they bring attention to are as important.

Take the Cairo Runners initiative for example: since their first run in December 2012, they have grown beyond the simple exercise group that founder Ibrahim Safwat envisioned and into something more.

Not only have their runs taken them outside of Cairo and all around Egypt — they have also organized runs for different causes. In 2015, they ran to support the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt. In 2022, they organized their first post-COVID marathon to raise awareness about depression and mental health issues.

Most recently, the group held a run for World Refugee Day, their first event of 2023.

With the help of the PROSPECTS partnership, Cairo Runners organized the run at Le Lac du Caire on 23 June. The route was 8K, composed of five 1.6K laps around the area. Runners registered to participate and gathered at the site for the event, beginning at 7:15AM and expected to last around five hours.

It was attended by Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands Han-Maurits Schaapveld, who gave a speech on the topic of refugees before the run began, stating “Running does not discriminate. Everybody can run. It brings together people, societies and cultures.”

The event also provided the opportunity for refugees with small businesses to sell their products to runners and others in the area during an exhibition.

In organizing this event, Cairo Runners have proved that not every awareness effort needs to be uniform. The run gave locals the chance to pursue health and fitness in a community setting, all while contributing to a worthy cause.

World Refugee Day serves to recognize refugees and honor those who were forced to flee their countries. It is celebrated every year on 20 June, as designated by the United Nations, and this year’s theme is “Hope away from Home.” With unrest and conflict all over the world from Sudan to Ukraine, this day is more important than ever.

The day has always been relevant to Egypt since it hosts upwards of 288,000 refugees from over 60 countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) — but it is especially important in recent months with the crisis those in Sudan are facing.

Since the fighting broke out in April, Egypt has been welcoming Sudanese seeking refuge, despite enforcing an entry visa. In addition to relief efforts and medical supplies, there has been some global support for the cause.

The European Union announced on 18 June that it will give Egypt EUR 20 million (EGP 674 million) to support the incoming refugees.

That being said, local efforts like the World Refugee run are equally as beneficial since they directly impact social inclusion and connection; key factors in helping refugees integrate in unfamiliar settings, according to the UNHCR.

Cairo Runners brought together a diverse group of both Egyptians and refugees to raise awareness and recognize the lives of refugees and the hardships they endure.

Accordingly, it is just as Schaapveld implied; such an event serves to highlight the similarities between locals and those forced to flee their homes. The World Refugee Day run united the two groups in a way that encouraged both social interaction and community-building.

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