2019 Week 2 Camp Highlights: Record 70 participants, Elite Runners Shareefa Alsqqa and Ashwak ßåÐråñ Share Training Tips and Advice

by Sophie Zinser, Jordan Director of Operations

Over seventy girls from across Amman brought their enthusiasm and incredible energy to King Hussein Park this morning. While the weather was still a bit grey, spirits remained high from the outset, as a group of girls started an impromptu dance warmup on the bus ride over. With the weather a bit chilly, most girls and coaches wore sweaters over their T-Shirts, but the game play heated up throughout the three-hour event.

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Now that the girls have been introduced to the camp structure, the pace of play and enthusiasm has only increased. Head Coach Ru’a started the morning with an introduction, review of the rules covered last week--namely respect, kindness, and commitment to peer sport--and a rapidfire jumping jacks spree that got the girls excited to participate in camp. Ru’a then tested the girl’s knowledge of the classic Nina Brekelmans camp chant to get everyone fired up for the day.

Afterwards, Ru’a split the team into three activity sections based on age. Coach Hanan ran some activities with the younger girls and coached a particularly cute hugging game, where the girls raced around each other until a shout from Hanan signaled that the girls must hug someone nearby. Many of the girls just piled up and hugged each other (this got some “awwww”s from volunteers).

Ru’a led a section of older girls, many of whom have a background in sports. Towards the end of the drill, Ru’a switch roles and invited some eager girls to lead their own activity sub-sections. They were excited to take on the responsibility and led their peers in dance circles and hype songs in addition to sports activities. This was a great chance for the younger girls to see examples of how they may one day lead camp activities on their own.


Our volunteers were an especially energetic bunch this week. One volunteer, Kendall, spent time cartwheeling around camp and teaching some of the more shy girls along the sidelines how to do headstands. One little girl insisted that our volunteer Rosalie roll around with her on the ground. Rosalie obliged. Yet another volunteer, Jodi, allowed the girls to test out different hairstyles and headbands on her during a long water break. We’re thankful for the steadfast commitment of our volunteers and coaches!

After the activity period, the girls had their first experience practicing full laps. Volunteers were strategically spaced around the large soccer field and offered the girls high fives as they ran excitedly by. This was a great step towards building endurance and preparing for race day. Girls were given 20 minutes to walk/run as many laps as they could as an early test in self-pacing. Many girls shared how many laps they ran. One told our Jordan Director of Operations that she ran “six laps today, but by race day, I will be able to run ten!”

Just as the girls finished running, our guest speakers for the day, Shareefa Alsqqa and Ashwak ßåÐråñ, arrived and led the girls in a cool-down stretch. Shareefa and Ashwak are both elite competitive distance runners and were close friends of Nina’s during her time in Amman. We were honored to welcome them to camp this week.

Shareef and Ashwak explained the importance of running form and how one must always stretch after completing a long run in order to gain strength. After inspiring the girls, everyone took a lunch break of shawarma, banana and apples while Shareefa and Ashwak shared more of Nina’s story. They described what an excellent and motivated runner Nina was, and how she was able to win nearly every race she entered in Jordan, due in large part to her work ethic but also because of her kindness to others and determination. Inspired by Nina’s story, the girls, volunteers and speakers all took a group photo in the first of many Nina Camp group photos this year to commemorate the day.


Following the lecture, the girls closed out the afternoon with some journaling time. It is evident that bonds are already forming between the campers and volunteers. During the journaling period, two girls shared that they had written about how much fun they had learning from one of our star volunteers, Sophia. Other girls drew themselves holding hands with their fellow campers, volunteers and coaches. As the girls high fived the volunteers on the way to their busses home at the end of the day, their enthusiasm for the next camp week--and for race day--left the cloudy afternoon feeling a little brighter.

(This week was wonderful, we couldn’t decide what pictures to choose! Check out even more pictures from Week 2 below!)

2019 Week 1 Camp Highlights: 56 participants, new partnership with Sawiyan, and visit from Lina El Kurd of Run Jordan


by Sophie Zinser, Jordan Director of Operations

While grey skies and a storm were predicted for the first day of camp, the campers and coaches relocated our kickoff day for the 2019 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls from our outdoor location at King Hussein Park to the beautiful, spacious gym of Tala’a al-Ali Girls High School. When the start time changed to 9am instead of 10am to accommodate the new space, 56 girls from around Amman were up early to hop on three busses and gather at the gym to learn, run, and be inspired by Nina’s story. Twelve fantastic volunteers supported the camp today as well!


One star volunteer Georgie was up earlier than the rest, facilitating the bus for our new partner organization, Sawiyan, riding the bus to pick up girls from Jebal al-Akdar, Jebal al-Jofah, and Jebal Amman in addition to our participants through Reclaim Childhood. When all girls arrived, each were given custom-made t-shirts that they will wear for each day of the camp throughout the next month.

Our head coach gave an inspiring speech about the values of camp to start the day. What are they? Honesty, kindness, determination, and, first and foremost, respect for one another. No one succeeds alone; every success that we achieve at the running camp is done as a team. Our head coach joined with Jordan Director, Sophie, to talk about how the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation works in Washington, D.C. and Jordan and shared Nina’s story to inspire the girls.


Nina was always kind to her friends and family. She focused on her education, dedicated herself to running, and was a good friend to all. The girls promised to support each other in honor of her memory. The discussion ended with our favorite chant of Nina’s name and a promise to work together to succeed at the 2019 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls.

After we reviewed the rules of the camp, the girls were split up into four groups of approximately 15 for three rounds of activities led by our two head coaches and two assistant coaches. There was a tag-and-chase game, a game of throwing and catching cones and balls, and a sprinting challenge game. The girls loved the games as the gym echoed with the excited sounds of their screaming, sneakers squeaking, and laughter.


Once the girls finished the activities (and a water break!), they all gathered for a seven-minute group run to practice for the race. Each learned about breathing techniques and establishing their own pace. They focused on pushing themselves and respecting each other’s space. When they were sufficiently tired out, they all headed into the classroom attached to the gym for some quiet time.

When seated, the girls were each given a new journal and pen. They wrote their names on the front and wrote about what words they associated with Nina and the 2019 race: winning, strength, kindness, friendship, prize, completion. They then each drew themselves crossing the finish line. Many also drew photos of Nina!

After quiet time, the girls enjoyed shwarma, cheese sandwiches, apples, bananas, and water while listening to the wise words of our honored guest, Lina El Kurd, the General Manager of Run Jordan, Jordan’s largest and most successful running association. Lina inspired the girls with stories of how she became Run Jordan’s general manager and discussed the organization’s programming and design. She encouraged the girls to take on leadership roles in their community and ended with a huge round of applause. We are so grateful for her time. Many of the girls expressed how excited they were to meet her!


After camp, the girls scattered off to their busses, high-fiving the coaches and volunteers on the way out! We can’t wait for next week.

The 2019 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp Kick-Off!

Friends and supporters,

We hope you are well, and wanted to let you know that we’ve been busy gearing up for our fourth year. We are excited to share with you the official dates for this year’s Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls and Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls in Amman, Jordan!


The camp will be held four consecutive Saturdays - March 30, April 6, April 13 and April 20 - at Al Hussein Public Parks. The culminating event - a 1k race - will be held the following weekend, April 27, at the same location.

Thank you for helping the camp grow and thrive as we work together to advance Nina's vision to promote self-confidence, leadership, and well-being among young women in Jordan through running. Last year, the camp welcomed 30 to 40 girls each week with lessons on running, role models, sportsmanship, strength training and nutrition. Nearly 70 girls ages 8 to 14 participated in the race. And we welcomed two amazing new head coaches - Rawda Hamadneh and Ru’a Al-Abweh - who will join us again in 2019.

We’re lucky to continue having fantastic on-the-ground support from the U.S. Fulbright program. Sophie Zinser, who helped guide the camp last year, was appointed our first in-country Director of Operations and will lead our Fulbright volunteers this year to help to ensure we provide our campers with a phenomenal experience. Promoting leadership will continue to be an important theme for us in 2019, as we invite back past campers to serve in mentoring roles. We’ll also strive to strengthen partnerships with local organizations. Reclaim Childhood, a tremendous partner, is working hand-in-hand with us for the third year.


With your support, and with our Jordanian friends and partners, we’re really looking forward to making the 2019 camp and race the best yet. Follow along on our websiteblog, and social media channels - including Facebook and our new Instagram account (@ninab_camp) - to learn more about this year’s camp (and the people behind it) in the weeks and days leading up to our camp kickoff. We’ll be sure to post blog recaps of each camp day as well, and you can also sign up here for our mailing list.

Camp participants can register here. If you would like to volunteer for the camp, you can register here.

And if you’d like to contribute to our success in 2019 and beyond, please consider donating. We really appreciate the support we get. Small donations make a big difference! The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Washington, DC, and all donations are tax-deductible.