As the world marks International Migrants Day, refugee and migrant children throughout Europe are being given hope – thanks to football and the UEFA Foundation for Children.
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In light of the sharp increase in migration to Europe and the humanitarian disasters this has triggered, the foundation has invested €2m donated by UEFA to support those most affected by the crisis, including 15 countries across Europe.
While continuing to support countries bordering conflict zones, the UEFA Foundation for Children has been supporting the efforts of Terre des Hommes to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to unaccompanied children and families with children under five in FYR Macedonia and Greece since March 2016.
In addition, the foundation has created a €1,250,000 fund to support the integration of migrant populations, and child refugees in particular, in host communities in Europe.
Activities have been run by NGOs, national football associations and the wider football family, with the streetfootballworld network helping to coordinate operations.
So far, 23 organisations in 15 countries have benefited from this fund:
Belgium: Royal Europa 90 Kraainem FC
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Football Friends
France: Sport dans la Ville
Georgia: Cross Cultures Project Association (CCPA)
Germany: AMANDLA EduFootball, Champions ohne Grenzen, KICKFAIR, and RheinFlanke and FC Internationale Berlin 1980 e.V.
Greece: Terre des Hommes, Diogenis, and Organization Earth
Hungary: Oltalom Sport Association
Italy: Balon Mundial
Netherlands: Johan Cruyff Foundation
Northern Ireland: Sport Against Racism Ireland
Republic of Ireland: Sport Against Racism Ireland
Serbia: Football Friends
Spain: Red Deporte y Cooperación
Ukraine: Scort Foundation and FC Basel 1893
United Kingdom: Sport4Life, Start Again Project, and Tigers Sport and Education Trust
The activities run by these organisations in support of young refugees include weekly football sessions, tournaments involving local host communities, language courses and training for coaches, and CV writing and interview technique workshops for young adults.
More than 30,000 people have already benefited from these programmes. Of these 30,000, 65% are child refugees themselves and 35% are the teachers, coaches and social workers who have been trained to keep the various activities going.
The UEFA Foundation for Children is also supporting displaced persons in Ukraine and has donated €250,000 to the 'Play away, Play everywhere' project run by the Football Federation of Ukraine.
The aim of the project is to promote the social integration of displaced children and encourage them to adopt healthy lifestyles by playing sport, in particular football.