Renowned long-distance runner Tegla Chepkite Loroupe has been recognized as the 2016 United Nations (UN) Person of the Year thanks to her commitment towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Tegla showed the same grit and passion that she displayed during her record-setting races in her pursuit of peace and inclusion for the continent’s refugees. Last year, the 43-year old successfully lobbied the International Olympics Committee to give a chance to 10 refugees, with athletic talent, the chance to participate in the Olympic Games.
The refugees were from Kenya, Syria, Congo, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, all countries that host the majority of the world refugees, according to a 2016 report titled, “Tackling the Global Refugee Crisis.”
As a result, five refugees from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya were selected for the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro this past summer, marking the first time such a team had ever been hosted at the Games.
“The participation of refugees in the Olympics was a symbol of hope to over 65 million displaced human population globally,” notes the UN in a press release.
“This recognition is as a result of [Tegla’s] efforts in getting refugees to participate in Olympic Games for the first time in history and her leadership in taking peace to conflict zones in Africa. Her hope was that when refugees participated in the Olympics, people in their home countries would rally behind them, putting aside their differences.”
The three-time world half marathon champion believes hat the Refugee Olympic Team is one way of reducing the refugee problem.
“We do not want to see more refugees. It does not help us. We want them to go back home and become ambassadors of peace,” she said during the award ceremony held at the UN headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative Raouf Mazou also expressed admiration for Tegla, saying that her effort could be judged by the standing ovation that the Refugee Olympic Team received at the Games.
Two years ago, Tegla organized a race in the Kakuma refugee camp to commemorate World Refugee Day and to promote peace in the region. She observed great athletic talent among the refugees, who she believed were worth supporting. That sparked in her an idea to establish an athletic training facility for refugees in Nairobi through her Peace Foundation