2018 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 1 Recap

After much anticipation, year three of the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls is off to a great start. Our team has been looking forward to welcoming this group of girls to camp, and week 1 did not disappoint. We were inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of our nearly 30 campers. This year, we were joined by Nina’s dear friend and sister in Jordan, Hanoia Ali, to help inspire and lead our group. Similarly, we’re grateful for our continued partnership with Reclaim Childhood (RC), a nonprofit that empowers refugee women and girls through sport. With coaching from Hanoia, RC leaders Hanan and Ru'a, and nearly 15 volunteers, we were energized by the spirit of the camp. As a special twist, this year a group of older girls who’ve participated as campers in the past registered to support the camp as volunteers. We’re really excited to see this mentorship blossom. A big focus of this year’s camp is creating a community of mentorship, whereby girls ages 15 and 16 have an opportunity to lead and support younger campers.

Camp started with an introduction to Nina's story, her legacy, and her passion for the Jordanian running community. Campers and volunteers were then invited to introduce themselves, and our coaches led the girls in a quick icebreaker game to encourage community-building. In this game, girls would run into the circle, name an activity they had never tried before, and then a fellow camper could run into the circle if she had tried the activity. The runners had a blast and enjoyed hearing each other’s stories.

Then it was time to run! The group warmed up with some short sprints, stretching, and easy running. Coaches and volunteers encouraged the girls to do their best and cheered them on. Seeing coaches and volunteers positioned at the end of the run, the girls were even inspired to sprint to the finish line!

After our warmups and training, the girls headed to a shaded area to sit down, enjoy a snack, and relax. During this time the participants were introduced to a ‘race visualization’  activity they’ll do every week of the camp leading up to the competition. Each participant was given a notebook with coloring pencils, which they used to write three goals for themselves and draw a picture of themselves crossing the finish line. This activity reinforced the importance of setting goals and instilled in the girls the importance of reflection.

Camp ended with an inspirational talk by Hanoia, who discussed the importance of exercise and values of staying active. Hanoi inspired the girls to overcome obstacles and continue to work hard. This is a lesson we hope will resonate with campers through the coming weeks as we prepare for the big race.

After a great start, we can’t wait to see what next week brings!

2018 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 4 Recap

We began the final week of camp a full hour ahead of schedule as the eager girls and their coaches excitedly showed clapping and cheering on the buses at 9:00 am. Some girls ran around the soccer field before camp warm-ups, while others challenged each other to rolling races across the field. We officially started the day with Coach Rawda leading the girls in a series of team building activities and games. The girls warmed up with a fun "elimination" racing game. Coach Rawda laid out cones across the field before signaling for the girls to sprint between cones. She would then steal a few, sending those who could not easily find a cone out for the remainder of the round. Eventually we crowned our winner! After that, Coach Rawda began sprint drills by ages. The top three girls in each round were given a big high five and acknowledged for being the fastest in their group. Next up came long distance running warm-ups, while the girls practiced running around the field several times.

Midway through the morning of camp, we were joined by a photographer from Qasid Institute for Arabic Studies, where Nina had studied for several months while on the CASA program. The photographer, Huda, took several lovely photos of the girls before we began our long run. We hope to share these photos later this month!

This long-distance run was designed to prepare the girls for the race, and was led by Sophie and Coach Rawda. Both accompanied groups of girls on the run while taking several breaks to ensure that all of the girls were able to run at their own pace. Some girls took a break by picking flowers and giving them to each other, Coach Rawda, and Sophie. The younger girls in the back of the line encouraged each other on the path of success When the girls arrived back at the soccer field, they took a water break, and then played a couple more games led by Sophie and Amanda. Sophie led the girls in a Zumba activity and a group dance, where the girls shouted in Arabic “1 - 2 - 3 - ZUMBA!” while Amanda led the girls in a fun tongue-twister exercise that left all of the girls giggling.

After much silly fun was had, the girls were ready for lunch. They ate sandwiches, apples, and bananas under the shade of some big umbrella tents and were able to hang out and take a well-deserved 20 minute break. After the girls enjoyed their delicious lunches, they were able to participate in the the final activity. They returned to the soccer field where Rawda gave a final lecture about the importance of good sportsmanship. Each girl was given the journal back that they had been using to write in since the first day, and the campers logged their final thoughts about how they were going to prepare for the race in the coming days and reflected on what they had learned throughout camp. As camp was coming to a rapid close after a jam-packed day of activity, the girls signed their names to our two participation posters, which will be hung up at the race, and were presented with certificates of completion of this year’s camp organizers. Coaches, volunteers, and girls are very excited for the race this upcoming Saturday, May 5th 2018!

2018 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 3 Recap


We excitedly began this week of camp with the early arrival of many of the girls a half hour before schedule, at 9:30 instead of 10am, to which our coaches eagerly lead the group in a round of duck-duck goose, group stretches, and circle icebreaker games. Once all of the girls had arrived at 10am, our coach Rawda lined the girls up on the corner of a field. Five new girls had joined the camp from a small local organization in Zarq’a, and we welcomed them into the larger group. Rawda told them about the history of the camp and about who Nina was, and reminded all of the girls about how the camp began. After sharing Nina’s inspiring story, Rawda told the girls that they were smart, powerful, and shouted “What are we” and the girls replied “strong!” as loudly as they could. After the rousing discussion, Rawda lead the girls into 3 groups. Each group had a set of sprint exercises that they completed as a warm up using half of the soccer field. While two groups were sprinting, another two groups were sitting down and cheering on their peers. The groups were divided between the older and younger girls so that each was placed in an appropriate level with their peers.


After this set of sprints, the girls were split into two larger groups and raced each other for full-field races, while other girls cheered them on. At the end of this exercise, all of the volunteers raced each other, while the girls cheered for each of us (especially “Rawda” and “Ms. Nicole”). After this, the girls practiced a distance warmup where they were split into 8 small groups, and ran between cones spread out across the field.  If one girl got tired, they could take a rest at the cone, and the team would run back and retrieve the camper before the coach blew her whistle.

Once the girls were all warmed up, we set them out to tackle their first full lap of the Nina Brekelmans race - as we are only two weeks from the final race!! The volunteers lead the girls in a long-distance run around Hussein Park on the exact path of the track, and cheered the girls on. The girls took several breaks along the way to ensure that all of the girls were focused and on track. When it started to rain lightly, the girls pushed through, receiving numerous high fives and words of encouragement from their coach and volunteers. One girl even said “Nina wouldn’t give up if it rained!”

31068971_10204499089195018_2468008312747065344_n (1).jpg

By the time they returned back to the soccer field, it was really pouring rain. Luckily, the Fulbright team had prepared tents with little chairs for them to sit in. The girls were able to stay dry and eat their fill of delicious shawarma, apples, and bananas. The girls happily ate and took a break before they moved to the northern building at Hussein Park where they sat in a classroom for their lecture by Coach Rawda.

Before she spoke, Rawda lead the girls in their weekly journal entry. This week, she told the girls about the personal qualities including determination, strength, kindness, and humility that Nina exemplified over the course of her life, and asked the girls to write down how they would try to exemplify these traits in their own lives. After this moment of reflection, the girls listened to Rawda tell her personal story about her work as a female sports coach at a local school in Amman. She then dove into the focus of her lecture, which was about nutrition and healthy eating. She asked the gave the girls examples of healthy meals that they had had, and wrote examples of foods on the board. She asked if these were healthy or unhealthy foods. The girls were able to take notes in their journals on the discussed material, and write out healthy meals to have this coming week that they had planned themselves. Before we knew it, the busses had arrived, and the volunteers high-fived the girls on their way out of the classroom after another successful week of camp! :)


2018 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 2 Recap

By Nicole Khamis
Nicole Khamis is a Fulbright scholar in Amman Jordan, where she teaches English at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.


The second week of the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp in Amman, Jordan went off without a hitch as we welcomed the all 40 participants to continue learning and training! With the second week of training for the race underway, the girls were able to receive their shirts for the upcoming race, which they wore and will continue to wear throughout the camp. After receiving their new shirts, the participants of the camp got to business: short sprints, stretching, and light jogs were all in order to prepare for the upcoming race. Led by our all-female coaching team of Ru’a Al- Abweh and Rawda Hamadneh, the girls learned how to pace themselves while running, appropriate exercises for running, and the importance of continuing to work hard to achieve your goals. 


In line with the mission of the camp, which aims to elevate and support females, our new mentorship program was inaugurated by the hard work of our volunteers who served as mentors to the participants of the camp. This launch of this program is thanks in large part to a grant that we received from the U.S. Embassy in Jordan. First, this mentorship program allowed the participants of the camp to get more individualized attention towards running and exercise by splitting up campers into small groups. In addition, during journaling time, girls would talk about goals they want to accomplish and the importance of running. Small group discussions were encouraged and led by volunteers. 

The camp ended with an great discussion led by Yasmin, a strength trainer in Amman who taught the girls strength training exercises to build muscle. 


We look forward to continuing to empower girls through education and exercise, and are counting down the days to the race here in Amman! 


Continuing Nina’s legacy: Getting Ready for 2018 Camp and Race

By Nicole Khamis
Nicole Khamis is part of this year's leadership team and teaching English in Amman, Jordan as a 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar.


The first time that my Jordan Fulbright cohort and I heard Nina Brekelman’s story was almost a year ago when we gathered together for the first time in Washington, D.C. The Fulbright Program is an international exchange opportunity for study and research that works to foster intercultural exchange and mutual understanding through different cultures. A key way that Fulbright achieves this is by sending individuals abroad who are passionate about doing this exact thing- and Nina was no exception. Her passing came shortly before she embarked on a Fulbright Fellowship in Jordan to research the experience of female distance runners.


Nina’s legacy is inherent in the dream of William J. Fulbright, who established the Fulbright Scholarship after World War II to bring a divided world together. Her passion for learning about other cultures, engaging deeply with local communities in Mexico, Egypt, and Jordan, and her love for empowering marginalized communities, shined through in everything she did. Nina’s love for running, Arabic, and her infectious smile are still remembered by the many she worked with and impacted here in Jordan - and we are committed to continuing her legacy here in Amman by organizing the third annual camp and race for girls founded in Nina’s honor.


The running camp, which will begin Saturday, will once again provide instruction on running training and techniques to young girls ages 8 to 14 to promote healthy living and self confidence. The experience will culminate May 5 at Sports City with a race in which the girls can show what they learned throughout the camp.  

We also are very excited this year to implement a girls leadership program that will give local girls an opportunity to mentor camp participants, and look forward to providing an update on this endeavor in the weeks ahead of us.

Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 9.53.28 AM.png

Establishing a running camp in Jordan as a way to empower girls was a vision that Nina put forth for her Fulbright proposal. So, while the Fulbright Team based in Amman has been busy planning this year’s camp, Nina has been on our minds. Through the camp, we hope to empower and uplift other women in hopes of making a lasting impact on the lives of young girls in Jordan.