Solidarity through sports and education

Mixed feelings of enthusiasm and fear prevailed the team of WE AfriHug, while it was ready to travel to Western Sahara. After ending the activities in Ghana, the team headed to Madrid for joining the Sahara Marathon Delegation.

The destination was the Saharawi refugee camps of Western Sahara, where around 160.000 Saharawi refugees live in the desert. The refugee camps are located about one hour from the city of Tindouf, Algeria, close to the Moroccan and Mauritanian borders.

WE AfriHug team travelled to this special destination having three objectives. First, to achieve the sports milestone of Sahara Marathon, running in the desert for 42 km and gaining the experience of this extraordinary and unique marathon. Secondly, to spend a special week with the Saharawi families who hosted us and get knowledge and understanding of the 42-year-long conflict, their way of living and culture. Thirdly, to empower and train young refugees through non-formal education, targeting the improvement of the 21st Century Skills.

“42 kilometers of our effort, for 42 years of your resistance”. By promoting this motto for year 2018, the Sahara Marathon organizers are demonstrating the solidarity, promoting the sports and raising the awareness about a 42-year-long conflict. The Sahara Marathon is not just a race but is an international sports event. 42 years of suffering for a population affected by a conflict that is burying their hopes, generation after generation. 18 years of Sahara Marathon, and 42 years of exile for the Saharawi people.

Finally, WE AfriHug team proudly announces the successful accomplishment of the challenging sports milestones. After climbing to the top of Africa, the mount Kilimanjaro, WE AfriHug successfully accomplished the sports milestone of running the Sahara Marathon. Konstantinos Maragkos and Demetris Christodoulou ran the 42.195 km and Marilena Maragkou the 10 km. It was the first time for Greece and Cyprus to be represented in this marathon since its first edition, in 2001. In total 500 participants from 23 countries participated in the marathon, the half marathon, the 10 and 5 km races. The route of the marathon symbolically connected the three refugee camps of Smara, Auserd and El Ayoun, and leaded the runners through the desert which has been the home of refugees for 42 years.

How beautiful and powerful is to spend 1 week and interact with a Saharawi family, living like them, eating like them, even dressing like them. The life in the refugee camps, as we indicated in the small period of 1 week, is quiet and peaceful, based on their unique and strong culture and influenced by their beliefs and their geographical location. The family that hosted the team is composed by 6 members. All of them were very friendly and more than enough protective and caring. The team had the chance to familiarise and interact with them, understanding the principles and the routes of their culture.

Thanks to the support of the members of the “Global Western Sahara Ambassador Programme”, in which alumni of the Erasmus Mundus European Master in Tourism Management are working, WE AfriHug team arranged a 2-day Non-formal Education Training Seminar with 15 Saharawi students of “17 June Intermediate school”. During the first day, the activities “Shield power” and “The Hidden Path” took place, while the students being open and adaptable participated actively, embracing Non-formal Education, even if it was their first approach to this new learning process. During the second and last day of the Training Seminar, the students gave their best and participated in the activities “The Front Page” and “The Battle of Orange”. Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Social and Cultural were the key skills to be developed through the activities. In the end, the students got their certificates of participation, shared their thoughts and evaluated the training. The next day, WE AfriHug team met again the students, in order to conduct interviews and understand better their opinion and experience but also to create an artistic video!

After living together with the Saharawi for a week, participating in the Solidarity Sahara Marathon, running 42 kilometres in the desert and empowering Youth through Non-Formal Education, the team completed its actions in the Refugee camps of Western Sahara. It was a very special journey, an experience that everyone should live, getting a strong understanding of the life there. Thanks to the Sahara Marathon the team had the chance to experience the Saharawi way of life, combining sports with solidarity.