Among the 50,000 volunteers taking part in the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be a small group of people for whom the Olympic values of friendship and respect for others have a very special meaning: 38 refugees and asylum seekers from areas of unrest and conflict who have chosen Brazil as their new home.For the refugees, providing valued services at the Games will help them reconnect with the outside world and build their self-esteem, after experiencing the anguish of losing their homes and leaving their friends and families behind.”The Games are an opportunity to interact with other foreigners,” taxi driver Sekou Dabo from Guinea says. Dabo fled to Brazil after his mother was killed in religious violence in the African country. “They will gave us the benefit of being connected to other people.” “My father always told me that while we may need money, we also have to take advantage of any opportunity there is to grow,” says Prisca Mbamu, a journalist who fled war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo when she fell foul of local authorities. Prisca came to Brazil in 2013, currently works as a hairdresser in the Madureira district of Rio and has signed up to serve as a volunteer in the Games.Rio 2016 is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and local Catholic organisation Cáritas to select refugees and asylum seekers to work in the Olympic and Paralympic Games either as employees or as volunteers. In their new positions, the refugees will help the organising committee in a wide range of key areas, including transport, interpreting and customer service.From Syria to BrazilOne of the volunteer refugees in Rio is Mohammad Ghannam, a 30-year old Syrian who left his devastated home country two years ago to build a new life in Brazil. “During the Games I want to introduce foreign visitors to the Brazilian culture that I am learning,” he says. “I want to show off Brazil’s heart.”Brazil has given thousands of Syrians the chance of a new start. At the beginning of May, a 12-year-oldSyrian refugee was chosen to be one of the first 10 bearers of the Olympic Torch on the day it arrived in Brazil. Hanan Khaled Daqqah and her family arrived in São Paulo in 2015, under a humanitarian programme run by the Brazilian government. Some 8,000 special visas have been issued to Syrians under the initiative. Hanan now studies at a public school near her home, speaks Portuguese fluently and has many Brazilian friends.In April, another Syrian refugee – swimmer Ibrahim Al-Hussein, who lost part of his leg in a bombing – carried the Rio 2016 torch through a refugee camp in Athens. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee is mounting a team of refugees who will compete under the Olympic flag at the Rio 2016 Games.For some Syrians, adaptation to life in Brazil has been relatively straightforward even though they are far from their homeland. Refugees say that Brazil’s multi-ethnic culture has helped the integration process. The country has a long history of Arab immigration; Mohammad Ghannam points to the abundance of Arab restaurants in Rio and to the decoration of Catete Palace, partly inspired by the Moorish culture of medieval Portugal.Inspired by sportsThe volunteers say they are excited to be participating in the world’s greatest festival of sport. “My father used to say that with sport another person’s achievements can make you happy,” biomedical scientist Keila Castillo from Venezuela says. Keila arrived in Rio less than a year ago and is herself an active sportswoman, playing football and running marathons.Another sports fan who will be contributing to the Games as a volunteer is Aklah Fiasese, a 58-year-old film maker from Togo who fled the country after his television programmes upset the authorities. As well as working as a volunteer, Fiasese is confident that the very first Olympic Games in South America will provide plenty of material for a new production. One thing is for sure – there will be no shortage of stories to tell when the whole world comes to Rio in less than three months’ time.
Popular Pan-African online hotel booking site, Hotelnownow.com has announced the introduction of a range of new features and services as part of a brand relaunch aimed at securing the company’s position as the top platform for online hotel bookings in the region.Founded in 2014, www.hotelnownow.com has fast grown to become the largest hotel bookings deals site in the region, providing group corporate and consumer clients with the finest accommodation options in Nigeria and across other parts of Africa.The brand relaunch campaign with the slogan – ‘Why Pay More’ – kicked off with a new TV campaign featuring Funke Bucknor Obruthe, Creative Director and founder of Zapphaire Events, one of the leading events planning companies in Nigeria.The company made a strategic decision to focus the initial brand relaunch campaign efforts on the hospitality industry in Nigeria, with plans to scale up to other key countries in the region over the coming months.Nigeria has been identified as one of the fastest growing markets for hospitality in the Sub-Saharan African region. As the country continues to be a favorite business and tourism destination, the hospitality industry has seen investments of over US$3 billion in the last five years alone.The rapid growth of internet and mobile penetration in the region and the changing attitude of the populace to be more trusting of online commerce portend a big opportunity in the hospitality space. Despite these changes and the ongoing modernization of trade in the region, value continues to play a key role when individuals and organizations are to make purchase decisions.Speaking on the brand relaunch, the Chief Sales and Commercial Officer for the hotelnownow.com, Mr. Okey Ochulo, remarked that “Over the past months, our brand and acquisition teams at hotelnownow.com have been working hard to understand the current business and consumer needs in the Nigerian hospitality sector; and then to translate these findings into features and offerings to meet the needs of the industry stakeholders.“As part of the relaunch, the brand has introduced a new website that is more intuitive and user friendly. As a result of the changes implemented, users of the platform are empowered to easily locate the best possible hotel deals. With thousands of prescreened hotels to choose from and the top weekly deals highlighted, every visitor to the site would definitely find a hotel to meet their unique needs.”One of the most exciting new features that would immensely benefit users of the platform is the integration with the hotelnownow.com Morewardz Loyalty program. With this program, customers acquire loyalty points for every booking they make on the site.Beneficiaries of the loyalty program get a loyalty card that also doubles as a charge card. The loyalty card can be used both to redeem points in the loyalty program and to make regular transactions.Redeemed points can be claimed at any time and converted into a hotel booking or can be used to pay for a variety of other services at any hotel in the network. Hotelnonwnow.com is the first and only online sub Saharan African hotel booking site to offer a loyalty program to its users today.In support of the numerous business trips that account for the bulk of hotel stays in the region, the brand also revealed that it has introduced a new package, specially designed to aid organizations with easily securing corporate reservations for rooms and meeting rooms.With this ‘Corporate Edge Package’, companies and organizations can leverage on key partnerships struck by hotelnownow.com to get even better deals on individual or group bookings. HotelnownowSource = Hotelnownow