Kigeme, Mugombwa, and Mahama Refugee Camps, Rwanda
Protecting Young Refugees Through Sport

Photography by Nico Krijno


Sports are playing an ever-greater role in the work of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to bring positive value to children’s lives, especially for the growing number of youths living in refugee camps in Rwanda.  In 2017, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the IOC launched the Sport for Protection project to enhance the protection of refugee children and youth residing in the six refugee camps in Rwanda through various sport activities. The project aims to ensure their safety and security where they play and interact, avoid negative coping mechanisms, develop their resilience and help them acquiring valuable life skills for their present and future.  The project emphasizes seven sport activities; football, basketball, volleyball, karate, judo, gymnastics and dance.

The sport activities are organized and conducted by refugees in supervision of protection partners; Plan International in Congolese camps including Kigeme and Mugombwa, and Save the Children in Mahama camp (for Burundians).

The group of refugees in charge of the sport activities in each camp is composed of; one sport coordinator and 16 sport trainers. A weekly schedule of the activities is continuously developed with the participation of children and youth as well as other stakeholders in the camps.

Sport does many things for young refugees:

  • It’s a form of protection.

  • A catalyst for community integration.

  • It brings people together and fosters friendships but also to respect one another (and the rules of the game). 

  • It motivates their existence and channels their thoughts and behaviour towards something positive.

  • It gives them back the taste of something they lost in their childhood.

  • It boosts their self-confidence and builds life skills.

  • Sport is a right for all.

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Nico Krijno (1981, South Africa) explores the space between photography and the process of painting, photography and ephemeral sculpture, Krijno is carving an individual path through the current barrage of abstract photographic image making. A prolific artist who combines two-dimensional works with in-situ temporary installations, which reference the formalism of the wall-based art works. An inter-textual dialogue opens up between his artworks, and allows for an often-surprising tone to the assemblage.

Selected solo exhibitions include ‘Under Construction’, The Ravestijn Gallery, Amsterdam, NL (2015), ‘New Gestures: Fabricated to be Photographed’, WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery, Cape Town, SA (2105), ’On How To Fill Those Gaps’ (2011) - and the accompanying self published book - was widely lauded and selected works has since been included in group shows in Edinburgh, Milan, Los Angeles, San-Francisco, Glasgow & London.

He was nominated for the Paul Huf Award 2013. He lives and works in South Africa.



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