31 May 2022 - The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) has appointed Airbnb co-founder and Chairman of Airbnb.org Joe Gebbia as the newest member of its Board. Launched in September 2017, the ORF aims to support the protection, development and empowerment of displaced young people through sport, 365 days a year across the globe. The ORF, together with the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, were honoured last week with the 2022 Princess of Asturias Award for Sports.
With IOC President Thomas Bach as Chair and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi as Vice-Chair, the ORF’s Board consists of experienced individuals from both the Olympic Movement and the UNHCR, as well as refugees and other government and private sector representatives, who all share the dream of building a society where everyone belongs.
Gebbia has extensive experience supporting refugees around the world. He is a member of USA for UNHCR’s Advisory Council, composed of influential business leaders and philanthropists advising on new strategies, tactics and connections to address the global refugee crisis. Gebbia has also travelled with Malala Yousafzai to Kenya and Rwanda to work on girls’ education in refugee camps as an engaged member of the Malala Fund Leadership Council.
“We are very glad to welcome Joe Gebbia on the Board of the Olympic Refuge Foundation,” said President Bach. “Joe brings a wealth of expertise and creativity. He has been instrumental in bringing the IOC’s partnership with Airbnb to life and in ensuring that refugee athletes were included in the initiatives specifically designed for athletes prior to and during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. We look forward to having him on the Board.”
“I’ve partnered with the Olympic Refuge Foundation for years and it’s an honour to officially join their Board. The work they are doing to inspire hope in young displaced people is life changing,” said Gebbia.
This announcement comes after Airbnb.org, Gebbia’s brainchild non-profit said it would offer free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine. Six months after announcing its commitment to offer free, temporary housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees, Airbnb.org met that goal and extended it with the hope of providing housing to another 20,000 refugees around the world. Gebbia’s personal donation of USD 5 million helped kick start Airbnb.org’s Refugee Fund in June 2021.
The Olympic Refuge Foundation aims for one million young people affected by displacement to access safe spot by 2024. The ORF has already reached tens of thousands of young people affected by displacement through its programmes across eight countries.
Since becoming a Worldwide Olympic Partner in 2019, Airbnb has worked with the IOC on a number of programmes that aim to empower the athlete community. Through Online Olympian Experiences, the first joint IOC and Airbnb initiative launched in early 2020, fans were given a unique opportunity prior to and during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to support and connect with some 200 athletes. The Online Experiences provided a way for athletes to share their skills and earn meaningful income. The participation of many refugee athletes in the programme also had the benefit of raising awareness about the global refugee crisis.