The International Rescue Committee has partnered with Nike and buntkicktgut to bring the unifying power of play to refugee and local children in primary schools across Berlin.
The IRC, Nike and a local organization buntkicktgut launched “Berlin Kickt,” a soccer and education program aimed at bringing together local and refugee children.
Refugee and local children played soccer and basketball and took part in yoga sessions and parachute races during the launch event at Tempelhof, the historic but now closed airport.
Children also met with local sports stars including German footballers Jordan Torunarigha (left-wearing the hat) and Arne Maier (right), as well as retired player Andreas “Zecke” Neuendorf (center).
“Children are the future of our society,” said footballer Andreas “Zecke” Neuendorf. “We should take responsibility to help everybody get equal chances and support them to follow their dreams.”
Berlin Kickt coaches, many who have a refugee or migration background themselves, will run weekly sessions and activities in five schools in five schools across Berlin.
Berlin hosts 15,000 refugee children who have fled from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Parents have risked everything to build better lives for themselves and their children.
Many refugee children need to recover from the trauma they experienced in their home countries, and often from the grueling and dangerous journeys they have endured in search of safety. The IRC and Nike believe playing sports can help children overcome challenges and form connections and lasting friendships.
Refugee children in Germany also benefit from the IRC’s Healing Classrooms program, which provides teachers with the skills they need to help young refugees recover from the effects of “toxic stress,” a biological response to prolonged and severe adversity that disrupts a child’s brain development.
“This is where the value of physical activity, passionate and dedicated teachers combined with healing classroom concepts in schools contributes to a safe and positive environment for children,” said Stefan Lehmeier, IRC deputy country director in Germany.