(IN THE PHOTO: Franco Baresi inaugurates the Bteknay sports centre in Lebanon)
BEIRUT – The Btekhnay Sports Centre was inaugurated today. It was restored the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Rossoneri legend Franco Baresi and Rocco Giorgianni, General Secretary of the Milan Foundation were present. A fundamental objective of "Sports for Peace", the project started in March this year, has finally been reached, which has involved around 1,450 Syrians and Lebanese boys and girls aged 6 to 17 years.
Well aware of the inestimable value of sport, Milan Foundation has decided to support "Sports For Peace" by funding the renovation of the Btekhnay sports center, an indoor centre, where boys and girls, even those disabled, can practice sport safely. In addition to the Btekhnay centre, two other structures in the area around Tripoli will be completed. The project also includes training for 45 coaches, with a focus on the importance of providing protection to refugees and children on gender equality and the organization of sporting events and sports days to promote social integration among young Syrians and Lebanese, such as the football tournament scheduled for December 10 at the Btekhnay Sports Center , which will involve about 90 boys; or that on 11 December, at the Brotherhood Football Ground, in which over 250 children will compete on the pitch at Abu Samra near Tripoli.
The inauguration of the centre, the training of coaches and the two tournaments are an important stage of cooperation between UNHCR and the Milan Foundation. In the spring of 2015 there is in the planning a second significant moment that will see the participation of President Barbara Berlusconi.
Now in its fourth year, the conflict in Syria, with its burden of violence and insecurity, continues to force people to flee the country in search of protection in neighbouring countries. Lebanon, a country of 4 million inhabitants, has shown a tremendous solidarity with the Syrians forced to leave their homes. In practice, 1 in 4 people living in Lebanon are refugees. To date, Lebanon is the country that has welcomed more Syrian refugees in the region. There are about 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. More than half are children.
According to the UNHCR report on the protection of children, more than half of Syrian refugee children do not attend school and are often forced to work. The report also reveals that 3 out of 10 children leave home only once a week or less - a clear sign of the psychological wounds and traumas caused by the conflict and exile.
"We are honored to support Milan Foundation that has given so much to this important project that aims to promote, through the values of sport, overcoming the trauma of fleeing and social cohesion between communities,” said Federico Clementi responsible for fundraising at UNHCR. “Sport is an important vehicle to promote these core values and is an essential tool for building a culture of peace. This is why we hope that the collaboration with Milan Foundation can continue in the coming years."
The initiative aims to support Syrian refugee children and young people psychologically on their way to overcoming the traumatic consequences related to their status as refugees, so that they can interact better with the Lebanese community.