Running in a Refugee Camp: Dan’s Experience

Recently, SB OverSeas was put in contact with Dan Thompson. Dan has a mission. To run 10km in every country in the world in the run up to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. As part of his mission, he wanted to run in Syria however given the current situation, it was decided that an alternative would be running in a refugee camp in Lebanon. That is where SB OverSeas came in. SB OverSeas is a Belgian-based NGO which provides education and empowerment programs, as well as aid to those fleeing conflict.

Contact was made and flights booked. Despite being sick, Dan made it to Arsal, a city located on the Syrian-Lebanon boarder whose population has tripled since the start of the Syrian conflict. For his run, he was joined by 16 of our students. In his own words:

“On first sight, my fellow runners were exactly like all the other school kids I talk to, and run with, around the world. They all set off far too fast and were out of breath after 200m (to be fair, it really was quite steep). As I was to discover, they also like to fool around, ask cheeky questions, and generally throw themselves into life with great enthusiasm. Again, much like their global counterparts.”


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His experience of Arsal? He described it as a place with “rows upon rows” of tents. This is where the refugees live and for this accommodation, they pay both ground rent and tent rent. For these refugees, who are not authorised to work in Lebanon, finding the means to pay for rent is not an easy feat. Already having fled conflict, they are now living below the poverty line. This has a variety of consequences as we have seen from our work on the ground. One such consequence is the rise in the practise of child marriage in Lebanon amongst the Syrian refugee community – from 13% to 42% since the start of the conflict.

One of the proven ways of tackling child marriage is through education, something that many of these people cannot afford. This is one of the many reasons, SB OverSeas has opened three schools in Lebanon: in Beirut, Arsal and Saida. Access to education is especially important in places like Arsal, a so-called ‘red zone’ as it has been subject to threats from ISIS. However, it is our mission to provide every child with an education as it is the key to a better future and for that reason, we have a school there.

refugee syria


Want to learn more about the work we do on the ground in Lebanon, as well as in Brussels. Click here.

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