This week we want to dedicate our blog to the first ever team of refugees to take part in the Olympics.

We love the hope of transformation this shows to the rest of the world and in particular to those who, right now, are oppressed, trapped or trying to flee desperate circumstances.

This team of 10 courageous athletes show that anything is possible. They prove that your past does not have to define your future.

That’s such an important message for the enslaved women and children who we are passionate about seeing set free.

These are the stories of just three members of that truly inspiring team.


Anjelina Nadai Lohalith (athletics, 1500m)

Anjelina fled the civil war in South Sudan at the age of 6. She has not seen her parents since.

Now 21, she has lived in a refugee camp in northern Kenya since fleeing the fighting. It was there that she discovered her love of running and her school teachers noticed she had a natural talent for it.

She hopes that appearing in the Olympic games will help to reunite her with her family.

"I'm happy because it will be the first time refugees are represented in the Olympics. It will inspire other refugees because wherever they are they will see that they are not just the 'other people'."

Yusra Mardini (swimming, 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle)

Yusra’s story is amazing. Desperate to flee the civil war in Syria, Yusra and her sister took on a gruelling journey from Syria to Turkey.

Once there, they paid to cross over to a Greek Island on a flimsy boat with 20 other refugees.  The boat began to sink and the boatload of passengers were terrified of drowning.

Yusra and her sister, both strong, well-trained swimmers, jumped into the sea and dragged the boat for three and a half hours until they reached land, saving everyone on board.

Now, Yusra lives in Germany. That’s where she was able to continue her swim training and where she was noticed by German coaches.

Rose Nathike Lokonyen (athletics, 800m)

Amazingly, Rose has only been running in shoes for the last year.

She started running at a refugee camp in Kenya which has been her home since she was 10 years old and she and her parents fled the fighting in South Sudan. She didn’t own running shoes, so she ran barefoot.

At school, she was noticed by a talent spotting team and the path was set for her to become a part of the first Olympic Refugee team.


We will be cheering these women, and the rest of the team, on for the rest of the Olympics. The Freedom Challenge supports projects working with refugees in Europe, bringing hope and restoration to women and their families.

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