More than ever, women in the camps are looking for a place to connect, exercise and get away from their homes for a bit. The corona pandemic and economic downturn weigh heavily on everyone and there are very little opportunities to escape these topics.
With your support, we relaunched our women’s fitness classes in a Syrian refugee camp in October!
To avoid spreading Covid, we take care to maintain distance, limiting the number of attendants and making sure everyone wears masks even while exercising. When entering the room, participants disinfect their hands and get their temperature checked. Despite all these measures, attendance is high. In fact, even though we rent a large wedding hall, we often have to turn people away in order to be able to maintain the required distance as marked by little cones! Our fitness coordinator has been visiting with individual participants after the classes, checking in on how they are doing and encouraging them however she can. Helping people to connect with each other and giving them a chance to exercise and be encouraged contributes to the emotional and mental well-being of the Syrian refugee women we serve.
It is hot outside, 40 degrees Celsius, nevertheless the Syrian women are eager to start fitness classes again. The classes have been on hold for several months due to Covid-19, and the women want to be together again. They have been on social media chatting with each other, encouraging each other, and thus building community; but it's time they meet and exercise together as one of the women mentioned.
Restrictions have been eased in the camps and camp management in one of the camps gave permission to start the classes again making sure Covid-19 guidelines are in place. In Domiz 1, the other camp where we do fitness classes, we are still discussing with camp management if it would be possible to start up as well.
Although the classes have been on hold we are very thankful that the project continues making an impact as there is community build and participants in our classes keep connecting throuh social media.
The first thing that reached the Syrian refugges we work with regarding Covid-19 were the rumors. It is unquestionable, that rumours spread even faster than viruses. Many people were very frightened by the prospect of the pandemic reaching their homes and ready to believe even the strangest sounding advice and worst case scenarios.
Even as our region geared up to respond to the emerging threat, our staff took the chance to educate the women attending our class about Covid-19. Because of the trust that they have in our fitness leaders, the women were able to learn about the recommended hygiene measures, how to protect themselves and boost their immune systems by continuing to excercise and eat well. They also learned to not spend too much time watching the news and worrying, in order to safeguard their mental health.
Soon it became aparent that we would not be able to continue to meet for a season as the camp management requested the discontinuation of all kinds of meetings in the camp and the government proceeded to impose various curefews in the camps as well as the whole region.
While some of the restrictions have been eased seeing as there are next to no known cases in the governorate and camps that we work in, we are not yet able to relaunch meeting in groups to excercise due to existing restrictions.
We are so thankful that the women's fitness project continues to have an impact, even when the fitness classes are closed. Many of the women we have talked to our thankful for the community and relationships that have been formed as a result of the project. The participants in our excercise classes remain connected via social media. One of our fitness leaders said that before she started exercising she felt isolated and alone, but now because of the fitness classes, she is part of a strong vibrant community which has been a support to her during the COVID-19 crisis. The women continue to encourage each other as well as challenge one another to eat healthily and stay active. We are so thankful for the awesome women involved in this project and how they continue to support each other in difficult times.
With your support, more than 300 Syrian refugee women were able to attend our fitness classes at least once during 2019! After a short break over the holidays, we have relaunched our classes in the New Year and are looking forward to all the ladies that will join us for exercise. Every week new shoes are lined up at the threshold to the tent where the classes take place in one of the refugee camps. Attendance depends on the weather, children’s school timetables, husband’s work hours, visiting relatives and responsibilities that limit the women’s abilities to leave their home. However, even during times of political up-heal, fighting in their homeland and instability in our country, every single time that our classes take place, women show up to exercise, encourage one another and form community.
Our fitness instructors have opened their hearts to the women that come together for class and have in turn become an important part of their lives. In the words of one of the participants: “On the days of the week that I exercise, I am the happiest and least prone to flare up in anger. I have come to love the fitness instructors and sometimes I just come to exercise in order to see them. Through being encouraged myself, I have also learned to encourage others and care for the people around me.”
“How do you feel about your physical health right now?”
To follow up on our beneficiaries and improve our services, our project coordinator has been going around to visit people in their homes asking questions such as this one. In the past three months, around 100 ladies were able to benefit from our regular classes in two camps for Syrian refugees.
It has been exciting to hear how individuals have been encouraged and challenged by their time together exercising as a group. While some have experienced major changes in their bodies and increased energy during their daily activities, others commented that they stopped hitting their children and have a bigger margin for the difficulties they experience.
“How do you feel about your emotional health right now? “
Everyone in the camps is affected by recent developments increasing the conflict in their home region of Northeastern Syria. Most of the ladies that attend our classes have relatives or friends in Northeastern Syria and for whose lives they fear and as returning to their homes is cast into doubt once again. Though coming to exercise does not remove their worries and grief, it does provide a much needed opportunity to let out stress and receive encouragement.
Thank you for your contributions towards helping refugee women stay in shape and be encouraged!
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