Ben Stiller helps UNHCR launch fitness campaign

The UN’s refugee agency is urging people to use their fitness apps to help raise awareness of the plight of refugees and funds for support services.

Joe Lepper | 9th Jan 19

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is launching a campaign using fitness apps to help raise awareness of the plight of refugees.

The Step with Refugees campaign is asking people to act in solidarity with refugees by walking, running or cycling the same distance travelled by those who have to flee their home county due to issues such as persecution and war.

The aim is to achieve a total distance travel of two billion kilometers, which is the approximate distance refugees make collectively each year to reach safety.

Those taking part can log the total distance travelled via their fitness apps or the UNHCR’s campaign website and are also being urged to seek sponsorship to raise funds.  The UNHCR is hoping to raise around £12m to support its refugee support services.

The campaign has been launched in the UK this week and features a Youtube promotional video narrated by the actor Ben Stiller, who is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

Stiller said: “Families forced to flee violence and persecution make extraordinary efforts to survive.

“They are running for their lives, for a safe roof over their heads and a place where they don’t have to live in fear.”

Supporting refugees through fitness

In 2016, Syrian refugees travelled more than 240 kilometres to reach Turkey. South Sudanese refugees travelled more than 640 kilometres to reach Kenya and Rohingya refugees in Myanmar travelled approximately 80 kilometres to reach Bangladesh.

“Every day, we are inspired by the acts of kindness from people who are doing their very best to improve life for refugees: the activists, the communities hosting refugees, businesses, donors, volunteers.,” said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements

“This campaign will encourage people to support refugees through something they are already doing – walking, cycling, running.

“At a time when we are facing so many misconceptions about refugees, it is vital that we remind ourselves of the real and dangerous journeys they are forced to take.”

Digital creative for the campaign is being handled by Great State, with Hello Charlie behind the Ben Stiller video.