Bringing The Light To Refugee Camps


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has teamed up with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to launch a creative and integrated brand campaign, Become The Light. The campaign aims to bring light to the residents of Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda and promote the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect.

The Become the Light campaign aims to demonstrate how athletes and the Olympic spirit can inspire people all over the world in a way that motivates them to ‘Become the Light’ and act as leaders for positive change. IOC President Thomas Bach said that “Athletes carry the light and inspire us, giving us all hope that a better world is possible.” He added, “We are pleased to be able to continue our close cooperation with UNHCR and our support for refugees as part of this campaign.” Become the Light also plans to provide sustainable, solar-powered lighting in the Mahama Refugee Camp, home to over 55,000 refugees who fled violence in neighbouring Burundi.

Today there are over four million refugees living in over 230 camps worldwide. A majority of these camps have inadequate lighting, meaning that almost all activity ends with nightfall. This can prevent the opportunities for community gatherings, sports, education and other activities. It can also be dangerous for refugees to even be outside without light, particularly for women with the risk of sexual and gender-based violence. At Mahama Refugee camp, the sunset at 6 PM ends all communal life. Particularly, students in the camp are unable to read, study or do homework. Adequate lighting will allow for the continuation of communal and independent activities in a positive way. Bach hopes the solar-powered lighting will at least “boost sport and education opportunities for young refugees.”

‘Become the Light’ provides the opportunity for those in the Mahama refugee camp to live more normal, communal and meaningful lives. Even more importantly, this campaign highlights the ability of any group or persons to enact positive change in the face of adversity. The goal of the IOC in turning sports into an opportunity or outlet for refugees shows how even the smallest of acts can make a significant difference in the lives of those who are suffering. This campaign can inspire people from around the world to come together and help those in need in any way they know how. Bach grasped this idea well when he said, “In a world of uncertainties, the message that our shared humanity is greater than the forces that divide us is more relevant than ever before.”