Paralympic Refugee Team’s Airbnb online experience inspires Tokyo youth

It was a ‘rare and moving experience’ for Yasuoka high school students who joined an Airbnb exclusive online experience with the Paralympic Refugee Team (RPT), hosted by distinguished Paralympic swimmer, architect and RPT chef de mission IIeana Rodriguez. The experience, delivered virtually, saw Rodriguez lead an in-depth conversation with swimmers Abbas Karimi, an Afghan refugee living in Fort Lauderdale, USA, and Ibrahim Al Hussein, a Syrian refugee living in Athens, Greece.

In addition to competing in their respective sports, the six-person Refugee Paralympic Team are using their Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games platform to share a message of hope with fellow refugees around the world, representing the more than 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses, 12 million of whom live with disabilities. Using Airbnb online experiences to share this message is a great fit, aligning with Airbnb’s work to make travel more inclusive and their efforts to promote diversity and improve accessibility. This is just one of the most 200 experiences as part of an Airbnb Olympic and Paralympic online experiencet, designed to bring the world of magic closer to Tokyo 2020.

The RPT Airbnb online experience covered the themes of friendship, breaking down barriers and always doing your best. Karimi shared the friendship and deep bond that he and Al Hussein have, although they do not speak the same language. “We’ve known each other for three years and we are very heart to heart and I think he’s a brother of another mother. We love each other so much and have always supported each other in our competitions.

“When you’re a family, sometimes you don’t need words and you still understand each other,” Al Hussein said previously.

Karimi, who qualified for the men’s S5 500m butterfly final on Friday August 27 – the first from the RPT to advance to the final – also shared her personal story with the audience, commenting that it was “moving and inspiring ”.

“I was bullied and often tried because I was born without arms. But I found my talents, I have a lot of them, but swimming is part of it and I have worked a lot to get there.

“I kept swimming and swimming saved my life,” he said.

Abbas Karimi shared the impact swimming has had on his life. © OIS

He shared his advice with the young people in the audience: “As long as we live in this world, we all live and then we die. In order to shape and become a better person in our world, you need to set goals for yourself. Never give up in life, always set high goals, move forward in life and be successful, ”Karimi told them.

Airbnb is a global partner of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). .

“We’re excited to provide refugee athletes with a way to share their travels and connect with people around the world through these one-of-a-kind Airbnb online experiences. We hope that the intimate and authentic moments with these amazing athletes will help others find motivation, inspiration and courage during difficult times, ”said Joe Gebbia, Airbnb Co-Founder, President of Samara and Airbnb.org.

Revenue from hosting the Airbnb online experience has been a mechanism to help empower RPT team members economically, allowing them to earn a small fee for their role. During the pandemic, this became invaluable to Ibrahim Al Hussein as his business of selling souvenirs to tourists in Athens dried up. The support he received from the accommodation experiences helped him pay for his daily expenses, allowing him to do what he does best and focus on his swimming.

The Experiences also provided global connections, allowing her to share her story with the world. “I’ve been hosting for over a year now with Airbnb. I’m so happy. Through this experience, I’ve met so many new people and even made friends. Some connect with me on social media. Many contacted me and asked me to come visit them after Covid. It was the most beautiful thing of this experience: being able to make friends from all over the world.

“Working with the Airbnb team over the past year has truly been a transformative part of my life,” reiterated Al Hussein.

Revenues from the exclusive Airbnb online experience in Tokyo were donated by RPT to Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF), whose mission is to empower refugees and displaced people around the world by training them in taekwondo.

Rodriguez described Airbnb’s support as invaluable in helping them make such donations. “Thank you to our wonderful Airbnb supporter who is helping us pay off as a Paralympic Refugee Team,” she said.

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