UN-Real Madrid agreement helps refugee children in Panama

28 June 2007

An agreement between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Real Madrid Foundation has paved the way for nearly a dozen refugee children to attend school and sports activities in Panama.

An agreement between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Real Madrid Foundation has paved the way for nearly a dozen refugee children to attend school and sports activities in Panama.

The accord opened the doors of the “City of Knowledge,” a group of several prestigious universities and schools built on the site of Panama’s last United States naval base, which closed in 1999. They include the School for Sports Education and Social Integration, which was opened by the Real Madrid Foundation last year to teach football and provide a rounded education for hundreds of Panamanian youngsters.

Eleven refugee children in Panama City joined more than 500 other students aged between 5 and 18 who joined the school this year, UNHCR said in a news release.

“Of course we want to train good players, but we also want to give the kids a chance to develop their full potential as human beings,” explained the school’s technical director, former Real Madrid player Angel Pérez.

Tuition at the School for Sports Education and Social Integration is free for refugee children and the school also pays for transport, uniforms and two meals a day.

“Football brings people together; this is a very good way for young refugees to get to know other children,” said UNHCR Representative in Panama Jose Euceda, adding that the Government was very supportive of the project.

“Children can feel very isolated when they reach a new country and often they are at risk of being marginalized, so the Real Madrid school really helps them a lot,” he added.

The Real Madrid Foundation runs similar schools in Chile, Bolivia, El Salvador and Ecuador and is planning to open several more in other American countries. UNHCR said it hopes to “extend its collaboration with the Foundation to give more young refugees a chance to fulfil their potential.”

 

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