Katie Ledecky – Olympian and Refugee Advocate
23 July 2021
Today, kicks off the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. With the opening ceremony which includes a team of 29 refugee athletes, we’d thought it was a good time to celebrate (and cheer on!) refugee advocate and JRS friend, Katie Ledecky.
Kaite Ledecky became an advocate for refugees after being inspired by the refugee atheletes at the last Olympic games and because of her families own personal history of seeking safety in the United States.
Katie volunteered her time to advocate for refugees during the JRS/USA 2021 World Refugee Day Virtual event. In an informational session with JRS/USA Psychosocial Support Specialist Katie Mullins, Ms. Ledecky expressed her support for empowering refugees and other forcibly displaced people.
“I think everyone deserves to have a place to call home and I’m so inspired by the stories of refugees I’ve come to know through places like JRS,” Ledecky stated. She shared the personal connection to asylum-seeking via her grandfather who “defected from a communist-run country in the 1940s.”
Specific JRS programs, like this one in South Sudan, foster peacebuilding and support through athletics… an initiative that Ledecky has found a passion in. For refugees and other forcibly displaced people, the chance to engage in a social activity that encourages community bonding and sportsmanship can be a life-changing experience.
“I’ve been particularly inspired by refugee athletes at the Olympic games, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that there’s a refugee Olympic team,” said Katie. The Refugee Olympic team was created in time for the Olympic Games Rio back in 2016, comprised of just ten athletes. For the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the IOC Refugee team has grown to 29 individuals, all competing as a symbol of hope.
Ledecky spoke on competing alongside refugee athletes back in 2016 and expressed her hopes of “people cheering on these refugee athletes and learning their stories,” just as she had. She recently sat down with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and fellow Olympian Yusra Mardini, to hear her story and connect over shared passions. “I remember hearing your story and seeing your story, and just being so amazed by it,” Katie shared with Yusra.
JRS/USA was also fortunate enough to connect with Katie in the fall of 2020 for the JRS 40th Anniversary Event. As Katie continues to use her vast platform to advocate for refugees, we at JRS/USA will continue to support her as she goes for gold at the upcoming Olympic Games.