Italy invests in peace and dialogue through sports in Palestine refugee camps

25 September 2009

25 September 2009

Beirut

For the second consecutive year, and following the success of the first edition of “Palestiniadi”, the Development Cooperation Office of the Embassy of Italy is funding a three-day-sports event for young Palestine refugees in UNRWA’s Siblin Training Centre. The opening of the games took place on 25 September in the presence of the Ambassador of Italy in Lebanon Mr. Gabriele Checchia, and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon Mr. Salvatore Lombardo.

This project aims to give young Palestinians the opportunity to practice recreational activities in an enjoyable environment through the organization of sports events, as well as through the rehabilitation of sport centers within refugee camps. At the same time, “Palestiniadi” aims to promote dialogue and solidarity between Palestinian and Lebanese young people, drawing upon the active involvement of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC).

From 25 to 27 September 2009, more than 530 Palestinian students coming from all the Palestinian camps throughout Lebanon, accompanied by their families and 40 athletic trainers, will gather at UNRWA Siblin Training Center. The event includes sports activities and competitions in the fields of racing, football, table tennis, volleyball and basketball. Chess games will also be played during the day to help young people “exercise” their brains, whereas in the evening the young athletes shall turn into actors and, with the support of the association Right To Play, they will engage in theatre performances. In addition, “Palestiniadi” 2009 will see the participation of the Olympic athlete Masala who will talk to young athletes about how Olympic ideals, conveyed through sports activities, can more than ever help develop knowledge, motivation, skills and readiness for personal efforts and achievements. Moreover, the inauguration will be attended by a qualified delegation from the Municipality of Rome, and by a representative of the Agency for the Promotion of Student’s Rights of the Umbria Region (Italy) .

Like the first edition, young athletes will be provided with sport outfits with the logo of the “Palestiniadi”, specially designed for this second edition by the distinguished Italian artist Riccardo Mannelli. Medals and cups will be awarded to winners and participants. Two winners will also be awarded a one-year scholarship (2009-2010) to attend the Sports and Motor Sciences Faculty at the University of Perugia, as well as an Italian language course. Additional scholarships will be offered by other Italian Universities and Agencies based in Padua, Catania, Milan and Florence.

In addition to sports activities, “Palestiniadi” 2008 has rehabilitated the sport center in UNRWA school in Shatila (Beirut) and the works for the Rashidiye center (Tyre), shall be completed in the near future. For the 2009 edition, other sport areas will be rehabilitated by the Italian Region of Puglia (El Buss) and by the Municipality of Rome (Ein el Hillweh).

In his address to the participants, his Excellency Mr. Gabriele Checchia, Ambassador of Italy to Lebanon said: “I am proud to inaugurate for the second consecutive year the Palestiniadi in cooperation with UNRWA and with the active involvement of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee. We believe that this event offers an important opportunity to young boys and girls who live in Palestinian refugee camps to test themselves in a safe and playful environment and to prove their moral and sporting capacities in a spirit of fairness and respect for the other. I wish to thank UNRWA and all sponsors and partners who are investing with us in peace and dialogue through sports in the Palestinian refugee camps”.

Thanking Italy for its continuous support to UNRWA and to Palestine refugees, Salvatore Lombardo, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon said: “Last year’s Palestiniadi was a real success and a great day out for all participants. Extending it to three days this year is an indication of how well received this initiative has been by all concerned. The focus on youth, sports activities and other healthy extra-curricular activities is incredibly important and contributes to an improvement in the educational environment, and to the refugee camp life in general.” Lombardo also highlighted the offer of scholarships in Italian universities as an important aspect of the Italian contribution. “Palestinians know, as we do, that the key to a prosperous future for youth anywhere is gaining a good education.”

For more information please contact UNRWA Public Information Office tel/fax: 01-840468

email: h.elturk@unrwa.org
 

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68.2 million.

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