QUESTION: If you lost your family and were desperate to find them, what would you do?
ANSWER: Qualify for the Olympics in the off-chance that they would be one of the 4 billion who watch it on TV – and recognize you?
That’s exactly what Yolande Mabika is doing…
As a young child Yolande was separated from her family during the Congo Civil War. This was during the deadliest conflict in modern African history that left more than 5 million dead and millions without a home.
All she remembers is running alone through her village, being picked up by a helicopter and left in a centre for displaced children in Kinshasa.
Yolande says “I got separated from my family and used to cry a lot.” but then decided “I cannot cry every day…”, so she joined the Judo sessions in the camp, and it soon became her focus. She now says “Judo never gave me money, but it gave me a strong heart.”
Her skill led to her representing Congo, but when competing overseas, her coach would take away her and her teammate’s passports, leave them without food for days at a time, and cage them when they lost.
In 2013 while in Rio competing at the World Judo Championship, she and her team were left for three days in a Rio hotel before the competition with no food and no money. Yolande recalls “A few days before our fight, I was very, very hungry. I almost died.”
So she decided to escape the hotel with fellow teammate, Popole Misenga, and they ended up walking the streets looking for help.
Yolande and Popole seeked Asylum in Brazil, and approached the Brazilian Judo Confederation who gave them food baskets, medicine – and judo uniforms to train in.
Brazilian Judo Coach, Geraldo Bernardes took them under his wing, saying “Their previous treatment seemed to be subhuman. Here, everyone supports them.”
He got them to train towards and try to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
This month – Yolande and Popole are two of the ten athletes competing in the Olympics as part of the first Refugee Olympics Team.
Having no country to represent doesn’t phase Yolande. She says “I represent everyone. I’ll get a medal for all refugees”. She and the Refugee Olympic Team will be representing over 66 million displaced people worldwide – a number larger than the populations of England and France
She says “I cannot fight for my country. I will fight for the Olympics.”
“I will fight for all refugees in the world, to defend all refugees in the world.”
If Yolande’s story inspires you, ask yourself “What am I willing to fight for? How far are am I willing to go?”
Lifting a torch instead of casting a shadow is a choice we each get to make every day. Yolande’s story is about her choice – and how every Olympian represents, above all else, the human spirit.
“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” ~ CC Scott
And her biggest goal of all? To reunite with her family: “If my family see me on television, I can give my number, everything. Because I want one day to talk even with my dad and my brothers… If I participated in the Olympics, I think it would change my life.”
Best wishes & positive vibes to Yolande in finding her family. Either via TV or – by sharing posts like these – right here via Facebook!
You can also read the incredible story of fellow Refugee Olympian, Yusra Mardini, who swam the Aegean Sea to flee Syria, and is now swimming in the Rio Olympics, here: http://bit.ly/2aMygLF