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 their mental health needs. Many people experience mental health issues due to the traumas they faced in their home countries, their journey to Europe, and then the stagnation of life in Greece.
But mental health is difficult to address.
How do we begin to address the mental well-being of thousands of people who have a different language, a different culture and a different approach to viewing health?
Sport does not require a common language, nor does it openly advertise that it is addressing often stigmatised mental health. You do not need specialist skills or training to run around with a ball or join in with a dance class, making feel-good endorphins accessible to all!
ENDORPHINS & ESCAPISM
We run exercise classes within a refugee camp located North of Athens. The camp is home to 3,000 people, predominantly from Afghanistan but also Iran, Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan and Pakistan.
Exercise classes are held within a permanent building within the camp which the residents fondly refer to as "bashgahe ma" - "our gym".
Classes are separated by gender and age, allocating a safe space for women, men, girls and boys to have access to the sports classes they want.
Everyone is welcome!
We have a particular emphasis on "escapism" - offering activities outside of the camp. Since REFUGYM started in November 2018, we have facilitated hiking trips, taught people how to swim, taken people stand-up paddle boarding and windsurfing, trained our football team in a professional field and enrolled teenagers in a basketball team in Athens.
One of the most important aims of REFUGYM was to make it a sustainable project; moving away from a reliance on international volunteers and instead empowering camp residents to use their skills and knowledge to help their own community.
We continuously welcome people from the refugee community to use their passion and training to lead sports classes and run REFUGYM.
We run an incredibly varied timetable, including aerobics, Kung-Fu, volleyball, yoga, cricket, Zumba, football, self-defence, gymnastics, Taekwondo, dancing, basketball, step-up, badminton, Wushu, running and free gym sessions!
All led by refugees, for their own community.
Get to know our team here.