“Building bridges with Sports” – Interview mit Nina von YSR

Am 30.Oktober ist es in Frankfurt endlich soweit: Wir starten gemeinsam mit Yoga and Sports with Refugees bei einem Lauf-Wettkampf! Unter dem Motto “Race Together” starten wir mit 2 gemischten Staffeln und ein paar Einzelstarter*innen beim Frankfurt Marathon. Damit wollen wir zelebrieren was uns verbindet: Der Glaube, dass Sport einen Unterschied machen kann und Mittel sein kann um Menschen über Grenzen hinweg zu verbinden!

Im Vorfeld des Events haben wir uns mit Nina zu einem Interview getroffen, um euch hier noch einmal einen persönlichen Einblick in die Arbeit von YSR, unsere gemeinsamen Vorstellungen vom Sport und den bevorstehenden Wettkampf zu geben! Viel Spaß beim Lesen.

…sport is the ultimate way to build bridges between people, and this is extremely necessary in a world that is becoming more and more divided. We explicitly do this by showing people that refugees are not poor people that need to be supported, but that they are capable people, able to teach and lead, and that we can learn from each other. 

Nina, YSR

Nina, you are one of the directors of Yoga and Sports with Refugees. Can you tell us something about the project? What are your goals?

YSR was created at the end of 2017 by & for the refugee community living in Moria on Lesvos. We started facilitating sport activities with refugee coaches, as a response to the demand of people stranded on Lesvos to be active, continue something they knew from where they came from. The start of YSR was in a time when there were hundreds of people arriving every day on Lesvos, doing sport together created a moment of happiness and togetherness. Mental & physical well-being and community building were the top priorities of the project. 

In 2019 the project started growing, we expanded to Athens, and the situation started to change. This led to a shift in perspective towards a more sustainable approach to our organization, realizing that sport is the ultimate way to build bridges between people, and that this is extremely necessary in a world that is becoming more and more divided. We explicitly do this by showing people that refugees are not poor people that need to be supported, but that they are capable people, able to teach and lead, and that we can learn from each other. 

Right now YSR projects support over 50 refugees as our teachers and coordinators, giving them ownership, autonomy and leadership. Our teachers directly support around 400 refugees per day, giving them the opportunity to work-out, forget about their problems and share a good moment together. Our collaborative and bottom-up decision making structure, whereby teachers from refugee backgrounds themselves guide and direct YSR programs, attempts to ensure that YSR provides genuinely sustainable development for its community.

Since when are you a member of the project team?

I joined Estelle, our founder, in the summer of 2019 as the running coach. I was initially planning to stay for 7 weeks, but I never left. The project inspired me so much and I saw the huge need to further develop the project and create more opportunities for people to be active and connect through sport. Ever since that moment Estelle and I have been building the organization together, and many people joined us on the way. 

How has the project changed your perspective on things? What drives you?

Sport has always been a super important part of my life and I believe that sport has the power to change someone’s life. By changing the life of many individuals we can change society, and that is what drives me every day to work in the organization. In yoga and sport there is a place for everyone, and I’ve met so many wonderful people that are so strong, resilient and optimistic despite everything they have gone through. Being part of this community has taught me that we are truly #STRONGERTOGETHER.  

What are your tasks at YSR and what does a typical day for you look like? 

In yoga and sport I am responsible for the day to day management and the strategy development of the organization. On a daily basis I am in touch with our current donors, build new partnerships, I am responsible for the financial administration and working on the further realization of the organizational goals. And, of course, I train! I teach the running team once per week, I teach the women fitness once per week and I train with our coaches in the gym and on the track. 

Can you give us an idea about what sports means for the people in your communities? And for you personally?

I always say that running is my metaphor for life. Everything I do in running helps me to be a better person. Running makes me put things in perspective, it relaxes my mind and strengthens my body. I can literally not envision my life without running. I know this is the same for everyone in our community. 

How do you finance your activities? 

We are 100% dependent on donations as an organization. All the sports we offer are for free. 

Where do you currently see the biggest challenges?

In order to be able to develop further as an organization we need new resources. The situation in Greece is changing. The attention shifted from Greece to Ukraine, and even though that makes perfect sense, it doesn’t mean that other refugees don’t need support anymore. There is a growing need to invest in established organizations with a proven track record, that have the possibility to move beyond the crisis situation and offer a sustainable answer to the increase in refugees, which will only keep increasing in the coming years given the current situation in the world, ongoing conflicts and climate change. 

In October 2022 we are finally attending a race together at the Frankfurt Marathon. We are really looking forward to that. How about you? 

I can’t wait! Even though… I am also a bit nervous. I set a high goal for myself, and I am training hard for it, but it is not going to be easy. Nevertheless, the weekend is going to be amazing and I am super excited to finally meet each other in person and to reunite with some of the guys from my running team from Lesvos that now live in Germany. 

What are your wishes / dreams for the future? For YSR and for you personally?

I dream that in 10 years we will have YSR in every European country, where we create a safe place for people to create community, work on mental and physical health and build bridges through sports. I dream that some of our community members are competing in the Olympic games and show the world that nothing is impossible if you work hard! 

A last personal question: When are you planning your first triathlon? Or do you want to start with a relay triathlon with us? 🙂

I did a ¼ triathlon in 2018, just before I came to Lesvos. Cycling and running is not the problem, swimming I will have to practice a bit more though. I am definitely up for a challenge! Just tell me when we do it! 

Nina, Thank You a lot for the interview! We are really looking forward to our race in Frankfurt!

Hier könnt ihr direkt zugunsten von YSR spenden:

Ihr könnt ebenfalls per Überweisung spenden:

Trifugee e.V.
VR-Bank Altenburger Land eG
IBAN DE56830654080004072359
Verwendungszweck: “Race Together”

Der aktuelle Spendenstand:


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