Tegla Loroupe has been honoured as the 2016 UN Person of the Year in Kenya for her work in ensuring the participation of the refugee team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Loroupe, a former marathon world record holder who won marathons in London, New York and Berlin in her heralded career, was the Chef de Mission for the ten-member squad that made up the Refugee Olympic Team, the first to compete at the Games.
Loroupe's journey with refugees began in 2014 when she took her peace-building efforts to refugee camps in Kenya where she discovered a great interest in athletics among refugee communities.
In 2015, she petitioned the International Olympic Committee to give refugees a chance to advance in their athletics careers by taking part in the Olympics. She then established an athletics training camp for refugees in Ngong, in the outskirts of Nairobi, which is run by her Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation. The Foundation is one of the projects which is supported by the IAAF's 'Athletics' for a Better World' social responsibility programme. Her hope was to help produce Olympic talent that would unite the people of countries that are at war.
Her vision was realised this summer when the first Refugee Olympic Team was constituted, comprised of ten refugees from Syria, Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan, providing a symbol of hope to the more than 65 million people globally who are currently displaced by conflict. Five of the team members came Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp.
Speaking at the award ceremony in Nairobi, Loroupe emphasised the role that each and every individual in the community plays to ensure there is peace. “We do not want to see more refugees," she said. "It does not help us. We want them to go back home and become ambassadors of peace."
The UNHCR Kenya Deputy Representative, Mr. Wella Kouyou, said Loroupe reminds us that refugees are human beings with capacity and aspirations just like anybody else.
“With her efforts, Tegla challenges all of us to also do our part in finding durable solutions for refugees," Kayou said.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for the IAAF