Congolese refugees living in Brazil couldn’t get enough of the Olympic Games this week given that people just like them ― people from the Democratic Republic of Congo who were forced to flee and seek safety in Rio de Janeiro ― have been given a shot to participate.
RYOT/The Huffington Post spent some time inside a Rio refugee center run by Caritas, a Catholic charity, where the Congolese population watched judoka Popole Misenga compete on Wednesday with great fanfare.
Check out the giddy spectators in 360:
A large majority of the people Caritas assists come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to its Rio de Janeiro website.
Two members of the Refugees Team are Congolese and both are judokas.
Yolande Bukasa Mabika left the country as a young child. She discovered judo as a coping mechanism while living in a displaced child center. In 2013, when she came to Rio to compete at the World Judo Championship, her coach confiscated her passport and limited her access to food. Fed up with years of abuse, including being caged after losing tournaments, Mabika fled the hotel and wandered the streets searching for help. She’s now a refugee in Brazil.
Popole Misenga has a similar story. He, too, found himself in a displaced children’s center in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital. Every time he lost a competition his coach locked him in a cage for days with only coffee and bread to eat, he told the United Nations refugee agency. Finally, at the 2013 world championships in Rio, where he was deprived of food and knocked out in the first round, he decided to seek asylum.