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!
Even as temperatures started to soar above 104°F (40°C), the participants in our fitness project have been happy to resume exercising after a short break during Ramadan (month of fasting). With your support, 75 Syrian refugee ladies are currently attending our fitness classes three times per week in two camps, 22 of them for the first time! The word about our program is spreading from and we expect the attendance to continue to increase in the coming months.
Why do people keep coming despite the heat? While one of the main reasons people start coming is to lose weight, they often keep coming because they feel encouraged and accepted by each other. Women are losing weight while having fun and making friends. Since these Syrian refugees lost their natural community and relational networks when they fled their homes and villages, being known and spending time together in class has been an important step in forming new community. For some of the women the fitness classes are the only time during the week they get out of the home to do something for themselves. Several of the ladies have shared how taking part in the classes has helped them to become more patient with their children and slower to be angered by their husbands. Some of their spouses have noted the positive the positive changes and are encouraging their wives to regularly participate. Join us to help women get in shape, build relationships and impact their community.
After only being on the Global Giving site for a few months, our partners have already given nearly 10% of our 2 year goal for the Women's Fitness project. This is very exciting because we see this project making changes in the community every week and we know it needs to keep going!
Our team recently took time to interview and record conversations with many of the women in the program and nearly every woman that shared had previously struggled with depression or general malaise due to their lack of activity, purpose, and healthy relationships in addition to living conditions. Many after only one to two weeks of attending classes found great improvement in their mood, and after longer attendance saw great weight loss and improvement in health conditions.
It is especially exciting when we see relationships reconciled in the midst of this project as strong relationships are so foundational to ongoing holistic health. After a class, one of our local instructors was leading a discussion on personal worth. One woman asked for the mic and stood up and apologized to another woman in the group who she had been in relational conflict with for about 4 years. She told the other woman that she had not seen her value and was sorry for allowing the conflict to continue. They cried and embraced in front of the whole group and began the process of restoration.
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