An Afghan Parkour athlete named Khair Zahedi, had fled Afghanistan to save his life in 2019, arrived in Athens, Greece as a refugee, was homeless, and living in a park. In 2020, after a year of struggles in Greece, he reached out to IPF Secretary General David Richard Thompson to ask if Thompson could introduce him to some Parkour athletes in Greece. Khair had been a leader and founder of Parkour in Afghanistan, and he had been in contact working on the development of Parkour in his country with Thompson and IPF President Victor Bevine since 2014. Thompson, surprised, inquired what he was doing in Greece. Khair informed him that he had left Afghanistan for his safety and was now a refugee living in a park in Athens. As Thompson quizzed Khair, he was simultaneously messaging Bevine and also finding a room near the Athens park for Khair to stay in, where he would live with IPF support for the next two years. Over the coming days, weeks, and months IPF held fundraisers, wrote letters, made phone calls, and helped with immigration paperwork for Khair.
Thompson and Khair spoke almost daily and Thompson soon realized that Khair would need something to do to help him move forward with life in a new world where things seemed almost hopeless. Khair talked about how he was watching so many young refugees that he knew from living in the park turn to drugs, alcohol, crime, and prostitution. He was so upset. Thompson told him about the well known expression “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and how we should try to make something good out of this situation. Athens was the perfect place to start a “Peace Through Parkour” educational program and Khair was the perfect person to represent IPF and to run the program. Khair was thrilled with the idea! Thompson and Bevine set out to try to raise money to support Khair with a salary and also to help fund the program. That journey of fundraising still continues. The program is alive but not yet flourishing. This is the very short version of a longer story, but the “Peace Through Parkour Academy Athens, Greece” was born out of this series of events.
From a March 2023 news story about the International Parkour Federation and its “Peace Through Parkour” Global Education Initiative and “Peace Academy Greece”:
“IPF Secretary General, and Chairman of the IPF “Peace Through Parkour” Global Education Initiative, David Richard Thompson, and IPF President Victor Bevine, spent several days meeting with teaching staff and refugee students of the program in Athens, Greece. Each of these courageous young kids, ages 13 to 17, left their country on their own and underwent a traumatic journey here to get to Greece. The stories are horrifying. “I asked each one of them what their dream was for their future,” said Thompson. “They all were so happy to be learning parkour and were optimistic about their future. There is only one 14 year old refugee girl training with all these boys. She’s been learning English. She loves Parkour because she wants to be a ‘strong girl’”.
Older male immigrants often harass the girls who train, so this group of young Parkour students, all recent refugees who have arrived in Greece, must move from location to location when training in the park with their teacher. “We provide minimum funding from IPF for these programs but we need more,” added Bevine. Thompson continued, “We want to provide more specialty education and opportunity for advancement for these young people who had the courage to walk all the way from Afghanistan to Greece. We want to help to make it comfortable for more refugee girls to train. Many of the journeys of these children to get from Afghanistan to Athens took ten months or more. They are traumatized. These underaged kids are provided with some clothing and they live in shelters for minors, but there is really no guidance other than that. What happens when they turn eighteen?.”
“These are the lucky ones,” said Bevine. “Imagine your thirteen or fifteen year old child setting out on this journey alone.”
More to come but for now to help these amazing young people, go to: https://lnkd.in/g9aMYhM and hit the donate button.”
IPF- InternationalParkourFederation.org a 501c3 non-profit and it’s #PeaceThroughParkour Global Education Initiative is helping young people around the world in conflict zones, those who are affected by war and have become refugees, and those in developing countries who are considered “at risk” youth. We are in need of donations, help, and support for this program to help keep our athletes in these regions safe and alive. Please scroll up to the blue “donate” button at the top of the page to donate.