REFUGYM was founded by Brittany, a humanitarian aid worker who has been working with refugees in Greece since 2016.
Through her work, she observed that once people had reached the safety of Europe, very little is being done to address the boredom and stagnation that ensues whilst refugees wait to resume a normal life. This, in turn, can cause or exacerbate mental health problems.
As an advocate for how sports positively impacts your mental health, Brittany founded REFUGYM in order to provide refugees the opportunity to exercise, release feel-good endorphins and enjoy some much-needed escapism.
The inspiration for REFUGYM first came to Brittany two years ago, when two personal trainers visited the camp she was working in. The volunteers ran exercise classes utilising basic equipment found around camp – and the residents thrived off the stimulation!
The positive impact the availability of sports can have on a camp community was undeniable!
REFUGYM work in a refugee camp North of Athens, home to 2,300 asylum seekers. The residents are predominantly from Afghanistan and Iran, but the camp is also home to people from Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan.
Through community engagement in order to find out how to best accommodate the needs and culture of the community, it became apparent that the residents felt more comfortable with the classes separated by gender, with allocated time and space for each demographic.
Women's classes are held in a permanent building on site, which is also an impromptu female friendly space - whereby even when women aren't participating in sports, they hang out in the safe space that is dedicated to their well-being.
Here, women in the community can freely exercise, dance and support each other without constraints or expectations.
Men's sports are held in various locations, both inside and outside the camp.
Classes in camp are held in a sports tent, with permanent, inbuilt gym equipment to aid their workouts, as well as in the REFUGYM sports building.
The men's football team are also able to practice once a week outside the camp in a professional field. REFUGYM also facilitate weekly hiking and swimming trips, for both men and women.
Due to our collaboration with Spanish NGO Remar, children also have access to a building that is dedicated to their sports classes. Here, the children can be found engaged in a range of activities: from cartwheeling energetically in a gymnastics class, to concentrating peacefully in a yoga class.
Children are also welcome in our women's space, whereby we have a Kids Corner - where the little ones can colour, hula-hoop and play whilst Mum is busy working out!