Partnership Highlight: Reclaim Childhood

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As the 2018 camp comes to a close, we want to highlight one of this year’s most amazing partners: Reclaim Childhood!

Reclaim Childhood is non-profit organization located in Amman that empowers girls and women through sport. Started in 2008, Reclaim Childhood runs after-school programs, summer camps, year-round leagues, and coaching development courses. Their programming supports refugees from over eight countries as well as at-risk Jordanian girls and women. All of these programs and events support their broader mission of: “reclaiming childhood” where kids can just play and be kids, bridging the gaps between refugees and host communities as well as those gaps between countries and cultures, and facilitating women’s empowerment through the transformative power of sport.

  Maddie Ulanow , US director of Reclaim Childhood (left) with  Coach Rahaf (Zarqa)  (right)

Maddie Ulanow, US director of Reclaim Childhood (left) with Coach Rahaf (Zarqa) (right)

The Reclaim Childhood model is an inspiration. It puts women in leadership positions within the organization and provides them the tools to be leaders in their families, their local communities, and in the global community. For example, Coach Reem Nyez won the 2017 Youth Empowerment Award from the United Nations for her work to empower Syrian girls, particularly following changes to US immigration policy. Maddie Ulanow, US director of Reclaim Childhood (and board member of the Nina Brekelmens foundation!), and Jessie Wyatt, Jordan director of Reclaim Childhood, participated in the 2017 European Peace and Sport forum – an annual gathering of more than 600 major decision-makers from over 110 countries.

  The RC Zarqa staff.  They put together a bus from their community to attend on race day!

The RC Zarqa staff. They put together a bus from their community to attend on race day!

We are proud to partner with such an amazing organization! Just as they have mentored and guided girls and women for the past decade, Reclaim Childhood is now mentoring and supporting runners through the Nina Brekelmens Running Camp. For the past two years, coaches from Reclaim Childhood have accompanied girls to camp. They offer guidance and support for our head coaches, and the organization as whole is generous with recommendations and connections within the Amman sporting community. We owe a debt of gratitude to Reclaim Childhood as they have helped us to become better, more effective, and more sustainable in our efforts to expand running programs and opportunities for girls in Jordan.

  The RC Amman staff.   Hanan  (far right) and  Wala'a  (second from right) are RC coaches who worked directly with the camp this year.

The RC Amman staff. Hanan (far right) and Wala'a (second from right) are RC coaches who worked directly with the camp this year.

To the all of the folks at Reclaim Childhood: thank you for your integrity and unwavering commitment to empowering girls and women. Your love of sport, justice, and equality inspires us all. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants.

We cannot wait to see all of our Reclaim Childhood and Nina Brekelmans campers at this Saturday’s race. The event is open to girls from across Jordan. Registration for the 1K competition begins at 8:00 am with a 9:00 am race start to follow. Girls may sign-up in-person.

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

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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.

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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!”

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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! :)

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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

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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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Announcing Year 3 Dates for the Nina Brekelmans Camp and Race for Girls

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We are excited to announce the dates for the third annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls and Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls in Amman, Jordan!

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The camp will be held on four consecutive Saturdays - April 7, April 14, April 21 and April 28 - at Sports City, Amman's premier urban park and athletic facility. The culminating event - a 3k race - will be held the following weekend, May 5, at Sports City.

The camp and race continues to grow with the support of Nina’s family and friends, the U.S. Fulbright program, and our Jordanian friends and partners - including Sports City, Unlimited Distances, Boost, Reclaimed Childhood, Jordan Squash Federation and Ruwaad. Together we strive to advance Nina’s vision to promote self-confidence, leadership, and well-being among young women in Jordan through running.

Camp participants can register here. If you would like to volunteer, you can register here. To follow along, sign up here for our mailing list. And if you’d like to help contribute to our growth, please consider donating. The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Washington, DC. All donations are tax-deductible.

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Announcing the 2017 Nina Brekelmans Memorial Endowed Scholarship Recipient, Ghadeer Awwad

The 2017-2018 recipient of the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Endowed Scholarship is Ghadeer Awwad. Congratulations Ghadeer! 

Photo courtesy of Twitter

About Ghadeer

Ms. Ghadeer Awwad is the 2017-2018 Recipient of the Nina Brekelmans Endowed Memorial Scholarship at Georgetown’s Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program. Ghadeer is originally from Nablus, Palestine and graduated from Earlham College in 2016. Her research interests at MAAS include women’s empowerment, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and human rights, and Palestinian society under Israeli occupation.

At the age of sixteen, Ghadeer Awwad was selected to represent her home country of Palestine at Pearson United World College in Canada, a two-year, pre-university school for students from over 100 countries who live, study and learn together while pursuing the International Baccalaureate. Leaving home at a young age allowed Ghadeer to expand her horizons and develop her identity as a Palestinian Arab woman. After graduating from Pearson College, Ghadeer joined the Union of Palestinian Women Committees as a member and volunteer in Nablus, Palestine. Being part of UPWC provided Ghadeer the opportunity to work closely with women from her own society and to contribute in the national struggle to establish an independent Palestinian State. In addition, hearing women voice their experiences showed Ghadeer the need to take a more critical approach to addressing gender issues in her community.

Following her work in Palestine, Ghadeer returned to North America to attend Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. At Earlham, Ghadeer double-majored in International Studies and Human Development, a combination that enabled her to study public policy with an eye toward issues of social justice. Ghadeer focused her academic research on truth recovery and transitional justice in post-conflict societies and on Palestinian women’s engagement in national resistance movements. During her undergraduate career Ghadeer took a gap semester to work with the Drama, Diversity, and Development project (DDD), which uses culture to promote diversity and challenge discrimination against minorities in the MENA region. Working with DDD provided Ghadeer with further opportunities to engage with women activists and civil-society experts fighting for equality in the MENA region.

Ghadeer aspires to work in the advocacy field and to continue working alongside disadvantaged women in areas affected by war and conflict, such as her native Palestine. To achieve this goal, Ghadeer plans to concentrate her graduate work in the MAAS program on women and development in the MENA region.

Thank you to everyone that made this possible!

-Biography courtesy of Georgetown University

Announcing: Memorial Fun Run at Dartmouth College (June 17)

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In memory of Nina, her Dartmouth teammates have organized a memorial fun run during their upcoming Dartmouth 5-year reunion. Thank you to Rocco Pallin and Chrissy Suppino for organizing! From Rocco and Chrissy: 

As many of you know, our fellow alumna Nina Brekelmans ’12 tragically passed away in June of 2015. Greatly accomplished, driven, and humble, Nina was determined to make a difference in every facet of her life.

In her honor, her fellow Women’s Track and Field ‘12s are organizing a memorial run on Saturday, June 17. We invite everyone in Hanover celebrating reunions to join us on Memorial Field at 9 am, where we’ll run one ceremonial lap around the track, gather for a photo, and the ead north from the athletic facilities for a four-mile run through Pine Park. AL unning paces are welcome!

Please sign up ahead of time so we can send the run details and updates in case of poor weather. Contact Rocco Pallin (rspallin@gmail.com) or Chrissy Supino (christinamsupino@gmail.com) with questions! 

Website link: http://ninabrekelmansmemorial.org/2017-dartmouth/

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Saturday, June 17, 2017

9:00 am: Gather on Memorial Field for a lap around the track and photo

Afterwards: Join for a four-mile run through Pine Park

Race Recap: 2017 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

By Lilly Frost

Lilly Frost is part of the Fulbright leadership team for 2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp and Race for Girls. Lilly has spent the past year in Jordan conducting research for her PhD dissertation. 

Our race day—the exciting culmination of our four-week running camp—kicked off with about fifty local and expat volunteers gearing up for the day. After collecting their race-day t-shirts and some breakfast snacks, the volunteers helped mark and prepare the 3-kilometer race course for the girls. These preparations included a mid-way water station because of the day’s unusually high temperatures (which was a big hit as the girls chugged the water down and dramatically tossed the bottles aside while racing past!).

As the course came together, the participants started arriving, including about 20 girls from Irbid, five girls from the Ghor Valley (northern part of the Jordan Valley), and 45 from East and West Amman, many of whom are refugees. The diverse group of girls warmed up, chatted, and tried on their race-day t-shirts. In the background, a DJ provided by Sports City played music and family members bustled about taking pictures and drinking tea. The special attendance of Farah Hashem, Tamara Armoush, Georgia Cottle, and Hanoia Ali—all award-winning runners in Jordan—helped boost the girls’ energy at the start line.

Just before the race began officials from Sports City, including Dr. Atef, arrived to make brief speeches, wish the girls well, and take pictures with the girls as well as Nina’s family. Then, with three loud horn bellows, Captain Waleed from Sports City’s Squash Federation started the race. The girls took off at a sprinting pace as the crowd clapped and cheered. During the race, the volunteers along the course helped keep the girls on the correct path and provide encouragement. 

At the finish line, volunteers worked meticulously to track each girl’s time by quickly pulling off their bib tags and keeping them in their finishing order. Then, the Brekelmans, including some of their extended family, placed a medal around each girl’s neck and congratulated them on completing the race. Afterward, the girls trotted off to cool down with water and apples.

Once Coaches Ibrahim and Sweity had tallied up the girls’ times, they led a sun-filled ceremony on the steps of the Squash Federation. The ceremony’s speakers included: Nina’s father, Nico Brekelmans; Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation President, Mary Grace Pellegrini; Executive Director of the Binational Fulbright Commission in Jordan, Alain McNamara; and Sports City Public Relations and Media Manager, Laith Al Majali. One of the volunteers, Anas Yousef, helped translate each speech into Arabic or English for the Jordanian and American audiences. These speeches highlighted Nina’s commitment to running and Arabic as well as delivered one central message: “Keep running!”

After the speeches, camp and race co-organizer, Matthew Liston, along with Coaches Sweity and Ibrahim distributed trophies to the top three girls in each age group (8–10 and 11–14 years old). The girls posed proudly, with trophies in hand, for pictures on top of the numbered podiums as the ceremony wrapped up—after which, many of the other girls ascended the podiums for their own personal photos!

The race festivities concluded with an intimate welcome reception thrown by Captain Waleed, on behalf of the Squash Federation, for the Brekelmans family. Over coffee, tea, and cookies, the Brekelmans, Sports City officials, and event organizers discussed the day’s events, running, and Nina’s legacy. Overall, both the camp and race ended on a successful, upbeat note, highlighting this year’s achievements as well as next year’s ambitions.

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