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Venetia Rainey

Baalbek, Lebanon: “I’ve worked in sport for 20 years,” mulled Hashem Jammal, a 40-year-old sports coordinator at Al Mabarrat Association in Baalbek. “And while some of the ideas I am learning on this training program I am familiar with, there are also lots of new concepts that I look forward to including in my work.”

He paused and looked around at the group of assorted men and women chatting and inspecting their study books. “I like having the chance to get ideas from other people too and share our approaches,” he added. “The ideas being delivered here are very compatible with what we are doing on the ground over the last few years. It’s really important to improve our abilities in this way.”

Jammal was one of around 20 people who gathered on the fifth floor of Kanaan Hotel in Baalbek on a windy day in April to attend the second of four training sessions designed to improve the use of sports as an education and development tool for youth. Organized by HOOPS CLUB, UNICEF Lebanon, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and funded by the Government of Kuwait, the sessions are offered to social workers, youth workers, youth leaders, field officers, front-liners and NGO staff using sport with children. The program is particularly focused on how sport can help kids who have been displaced, those with disabilities, or those facing some form of discrimination.

“I worked with one child who was partly paralysed,” said Jammal. “I worked with him for six months to teach him ping pong, starting with basic skills and then graduating from that.”He smiled proudly before adding: “He won the first prize in a ping pong competition recently. … He was so happy and motivated after this. It’s really helped his self-confidence.”Teaching educators about the benefits of using sport for kids like this, and others with varying and complex needs, is crucial, explained trainer Fawzi Dika.

“It’s necessary for these people because these people have a lot of experience dealing with children but not necessarily on a scientific basis,” said Dika, who has worked as a trainer with HOOPS CLUB for years and also does fitness and martial arts coaching.
“So far, with this group in Baalbek, they have learned about the physiology of children, how their muscular system is composed, and proper nutrition, they had no idea about these things before.”

“This second session was about psychology and how sport can help kids deal with anger and feel socially included. They were more familiar with this, but there were still many new ideas here too.”
The third session includes talks on the elements of a fitness workout and how to promote messages of peace through sport, while the fourth session looks at games for teaching life skills and explores motivational tools.

“On top of the fact that sports gives a child physical well-being; it contributes to his development both psychologically and socially,” explained HOOPS project manager Mariam Hafez. “It is fun, stress relieving and a great tool of learning for becoming positive leaders in the future.”

She believes sport is particularly good at fostering integration and social cohesion: “It’s useful for breaking stereotypes and promoting mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue.”
One of the most obvious potential beneficiaries of properly executed sports programs are Syrian children and adolescents. Through the training program, HOOPS aims to reach 8,160 adolescent Syrian refugees and host community girls and boys (10-17 years old) this year, having worked with 15,536 such teens last year.

The Syrian crisis has tipped an extra half a million school-aged children into the country, most of whom are not in formal education. Sport can provide another type of intervention for these youth, as sports teacher Zahara Tofaily knows full well.

“There is definitely a difference between the way my Syrian students and my Lebanese students respond to sports,” she said during a coffee break at the training session. “The Syrian kids aren’t as interested in sports. They struggle to focus in school on academic subjects, so they focus even less on sport. They don’t think its important.”

“But they’re wrong,” she continued. “Sport can make them stronger and healthier. It will help them feel more included, help them make a friendship network with other Syrians, and teach them life skills like cooperation and team work.”

“It also helps promote their ability to manage their anger, which is very common. The conflict that they have survived in Syria has left a lot of anger and tension, even between brothers and sisters. Sport can heal these bad feelings and help them to communicate better again. I have seen this happen with my own eyes.”

The training program was a chance for professional like Jammal and Tofaily to share their stories, hone their existing skills, and pick up new tools for their work. “Teacher training programme will create a network of professionals who work with people with fewer opportunities using sport methodologies,” said Hafez.

“Teachers will be able to develop skills and abilities of the youth with whom they are interacting and teach habits that will stick with adolescents for the rest of their lives.”

Venetia Rainey
Baalbek, Lebanon: “I’ve worked in sport for 20 years,” mulled Hashem Jammal, a 40-year-old sports coordinator at Al Mabarrat Association in Baalbek. “And while some of the ideas I am learning on this training program I am familiar with, there are also lots of new concepts that I look forward to including in my work.”

He paused and looked around at the group of assorted men and women chatting and inspecting their study books. “I like having the chance to get ideas from other people too and share our approaches,” he added. “The ideas being delivered here are very compatible with what we are doing on the ground over the last few years. It’s really important to improve our abilities in this way.”

Jammal was one of around 20 people who gathered on the fifth floor of Kanaan Hotel in Baalbek on a windy day in April to attend the second of four training sessions designed to improve the use of sports as an education and development tool for youth. Organized by HOOPS CLUB, UNICEF Lebanon, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and funded by the Government of Kuwait, the sessions are offered to social workers, youth workers, youth leaders, field officers, front-liners and NGO staff using sport with children. The program is particularly focused on how sport can help kids who have been displaced, those with disabilities, or those facing some form of discrimination.

“I worked with one child who was partly paralysed,” said Jammal. “I worked with him for six months to teach him ping pong, starting with basic skills and then graduating from that.”He smiled proudly before adding: “He won the first prize in a ping pong competition recently. … He was so happy and motivated after this. It’s really helped his self-confidence.”Teaching educators about the benefits of using sport for kids like this, and others with varying and complex needs, is crucial, explained trainer Fawzi Dika.

“It’s necessary for these people because these people have a lot of experience dealing with children but not necessarily on a scientific basis,” said Dika, who has worked as a trainer with HOOPS CLUB for years and also does fitness and martial arts coaching.
“So far, with this group in Baalbek, they have learned about the physiology of children, how their muscular system is composed, and proper nutrition, they had no idea about these things before.”

“This second session was about psychology and how sport can help kids deal with anger and feel socially included. They were more familiar with this, but there were still many new ideas here too.”
The third session includes talks on the elements of a fitness workout and how to promote messages of peace through sport, while the fourth session looks at games for teaching life skills and explores motivational tools.

“On top of the fact that sports gives a child physical well-being; it contributes to his development both psychologically and socially,” explained HOOPS project manager Mariam Hafez. “It is fun, stress relieving and a great tool of learning for becoming positive leaders in the future.”

She believes sport is particularly good at fostering integration and social cohesion: “It’s useful for breaking stereotypes and promoting mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue.”
One of the most obvious potential beneficiaries of properly executed sports programs are Syrian children and adolescents. Through the training program, HOOPS aims to reach 8,160 adolescent Syrian refugees and host community girls and boys (10-17 years old) this year, having worked with 15,536 such teens last year.

The Syrian crisis has tipped an extra half a million school-aged children into the country, most of whom are not in formal education. Sport can provide another type of intervention for these youth, as sports teacher Zahara Tofaily knows full well.

“There is definitely a difference between the way my Syrian students and my Lebanese students respond to sports,” she said during a coffee break at the training session. “The Syrian kids aren’t as interested in sports. They struggle to focus in school on academic subjects, so they focus even less on sport. They don’t think its important.”

“But they’re wrong,” she continued. “Sport can make them stronger and healthier. It will help them feel more included, help them make a friendship network with other Syrians, and teach them life skills like cooperation and team work.”

“It also helps promote their ability to manage their anger, which is very common. The conflict that they have survived in Syria has left a lot of anger and tension, even between brothers and sisters. Sport can heal these bad feelings and help them to communicate better again. I have seen this happen with my own eyes.”

The training program was a chance for professional like Jammal and Tofaily to share their stories, hone their existing skills, and pick up new tools for their work. “Teacher training programme will create a network of professionals who work with people with fewer opportunities using sport methodologies,” said Hafez.

“Teachers will be able to develop skills and abilities of the youth with whom they are interacting and teach habits that will stick with adolescents for the rest of their lives.”

©UNICEF/2015/HOOPS, Chebaro

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