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A Good Goal

LET'S PLAY! Kids play soccer at Kakuma refugee camp, in Kenya, in 2019. HANNAH MAULE-FFINCH—UNHCR

More than 1,600 artists from 100 countries entered the 2021 Youth with Refugees Art Contest. The competition, run by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR), challenged young people to design a soccer ball based on a theme: “Together through sport.” Five winners were announced this school year.

Nadira Ganji, 17, was one of them. Her design features athletes playing a variety of sports. Nadira was inspired by watching sports on TV. “They were all players coming from different backgrounds,” she told TIME for Kids. “All with different abilities.”

Nadira can relate. She is differently abled. She’s also a refugee, having been forced to flee Afghanistan when she was 12. Today, Nadira and her family live in India.

SHE'S GOT TALENT Contest winner Nadira Ganji, 17, is a refugee from Afghanistan and an artist.


James Cowley Lane, 10, is from Ireland. James’s winning design uses a symbol that he says stands for hope. Its colors mean something too. “White equals peace, red equals courage, and blue equals freedom,” he says.

“When I play soccer,” James says, “I forget all my worries.” He had heard about refugees in the news and saw the art contest as a way to help those in need.

IN IT TO WIN IT James Cowley Lane, 10, from Ireland, is a winner of the 2021 Youth with Refugees Art Contest.


On the Ball

Artists who entered the UNHCR contest were encouraged to use no more than three colors, plus white. Designs had to be drawn within two frames: a hexagon and a pentagon. The winning entries were then turned into real soccer balls by a charity called Alive and Kicking. “The designs that won look just brilliant,” says the group’s CEO, Ben Sadler. Money from sales supports sports programs for refugees.

“Sports is really something that helps young refugees,” says Pauline Eluère of UNHCR. The 2022 Youth with Refugees Art Contest launches this spring.

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