You're Invited: A Foundation Celebration and Fundraiser in Washington, DC (6/22)

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Friends,

We recently completed our fourth annual race and camp for girls in Amman Jordan! Your support helped make this year our best yet — with record participation, dedicated female coaches, tremendous volunteers, and expanded partnerships with local organizations in the refugee community.

Now we want to invite you to a special event: a fundraiser where we’ll celebrate another successful camp and race, gear up for Year Five, and rally support as we look to further Nina’s vision. We look forward to bringing together friends and our Washington, DC community for a night of fun featuring cocktails and appetizers, silent auction items, raffles, and a photo booth in partnership with Pacers Running and RunWashington.

We hope you’ll join us! All proceeds will benefit the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation and our programs in Jordan.

Here are the details:

  • What: A Fundraiser for Camp Nina!

  • Where: Pacers 14th Street Store, 1821 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009

  • Tickets: $35 donation (includes two drink tickets and complementary appetizers)

We kindly ask you to purchase tickets through our event page (link below) indicating that you plan to attend. At the event we’ll also be accepting cash, checks, and credit card payments for the donations, the silent auction, and other purchases.

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Thank you again for the support and please feel free to extend the invitation to others! We hope to see you soon and will follow up with additional information as the event draws closer.

Race Recap: 2019 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

BY Mary Grace Pellegrini, Foundation President, and Sophie Zinser, Jordan Director of Operations

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Under sunny skies and with endless high-fives, a large crew of coaches and volunteers welcomed 80 participants to the fourth annual Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls at Al Hussein Public Parks. As in past years, the race invited runners from across Jordan to participate in a day of racing and sportsmanship in this girls-focused event. Girls ages 8 to 14 competed in two divisions, with trophies awarded to the top three finishers in each category in addition to recognition for top finishers who competed in both the race and camp.

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The day started early for organizers and volunteers who arrived at the park before 7am to begin setup, clear the course, and facilitate logistics for equipment and supplies. Volunteers arrived around 8:30 and enjoyed some pastries while going over assignments prior to the arrival of our competitors. We’re grateful to our contingent of volunteers from the Amman running community, Boren, and Fulbright for their enthusiastic participation.

Promptly at 9 our sunny yellow busses arrived with runners for the race. In addition to runners from our nonprofit partners Reclaim Childhood and Sawiyan, girls joined from Al Hoffaz International Academy, the Amman Baccalaureate School, and other local connections. After the girls registered, each was given a race T-shirt and received assistance pinning on their race bibs. Many girls then chose to join in group warmups and games, chat with friends in the shade, or get pumped by singing some of their favorite K Pop songs. At 10, Head Coach Rawda called the girls together with some final finish line instructions. She gave the girls a small pep talk reminding them of the importance of chasing their goals. Through any combination of running and walking, she motivated them to overcome all obstacles and finish the course.

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While younger runners (ages 8 to 10) competed in a 1K route similar to last year’s course, older runners (ages 11 to 14) tested themselves in a new 2K course. Despite best laid plans, park construction near the finish line led to some quick rerouting on the part of organizers and volunteers. Instead, the runners started and finished in the same area, which created a fun opportunity for the younger and older girls to cheer for each other in alternating turns. The finish line rang with cheers of “Yalla Nina, yalla banat” or “Let’s go Nina, let’s go girls” as runners streamed through the finish line to receive medals awarded by Nina’s parents, Gail and Nico Brekelmans.

In the younger category, the top prizes were claimed by Nishwan Abkar (first), Hana Abdulrazeq (second), and Malak Mohammad Mahmoud (third) who took home trophies for the top three spots. In the older division, first through third place trophies were awarded to Abeer Kaafy (first), Fatimah Kaafy (second), and Ayat Aawamer (third).

Notably, Abeer Kaafy—now 14 years old—competed in the first year of the Nina Brekelmans race and joined for the camp’s second and fourth years. It was fun to have her as a return camper this year and likewise to see her hard work pay off in a victory in her final year of eligibility for prizes.

All racers ran their hearts out and were cheered along by volunteers, coaches, parents, friends, and community supporters. After the running events, girls enjoyed water and snacks in the shade before convening in the park amphitheater for awards. To help cool off in the heat, girls also had the option to enjoy a light water mist from volunteers.

At the ceremony, Coach Rawda kicked off events by asking the girls to share stories of their accomplishments at the camp and race. Many of the girls shared how at the start of the program they were not confident that they would be able to run the full length of the race, but by the end, they were surprised by what they could accomplish. One girl even began by saying: “When I first started camp, the hardest part of the running was….the running.” The girls laughed and clapped as each story was told, reflecting the collective spirit instilled in all campers throughout the five-week period.

Gail and Nico followed with words of amazement for the girls’ accomplishments and encouragement to keep training and racing. Sophie Zinser, the camp’s Director of Operations, then spoke to congratulate runners, thank our partners, volunteers, coaches, and the work of Mary Grace Pellegrini, the President of the Nina Brekelmans Foundation, and the rest of the board working hard from behind the scenes in the states. Following a presentation of trophies to top finishers, the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation also took time to thank our Head Coaches Rawda and Ru’a, Sophie, Reclaim Childhood partners and assistant coaches Hanan Kadra and Umena Haroub, and institutional partner Sawiyan. The team also thanked volunteers from the camp and race with jackets, hats, and t-shirts to show appreciation for everyone’s time and efforts.

The 2019 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls had a true community spirit to it. It has been a joy to see the runners develop in their passions and confidence through sports over the past weeks, and we look forward to continuing to expand this opportunity for more girls in the coming years. As a final thought, one of the truly beautiful things about the program is the way that Head Coaches Rawda and Ru’a use Nina’s story and positive attitude as a role model for the girls. As a result, Nina’s parents Gail and Nico are highly regarded by many of the girls from the camp. In a final anecdote, one week after the race as Gail and Nico were walking around Jebal Amman, they were approached by a young girl. “Nina Camp?” the girl asked them excitedly. Both Gail and Nico were surprised and flattered that they had been recognized for the camp’s efforts, and were excited by how the camp’s presence is beginning to grow in Amman’s youth community. It’s been a lovely year full of fun, friendship, and running. Thank you for your support, and we look forward to sharing our fifth year of the camp and race with you in 2020.

Announcing the 2019 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

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The the fourth annual Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls on Saturday, April 27, has arrived! The event is open to all girls ages 8 to 14, and participation is free of charge. The 2019 competition will be held at Al Hussein Public Parks at the same location as our 2018 race.

الأعلان عن السنة الرابعة لسباق نينا للبنات و الذي سوف يجري يوم السبت المصادف يوم ٢٧ من شهر أبريل. السباق مفتوح لكل الفتيات ما بين العمر ٨ و ١٤ سنة، و المشاركة في السباق مجاناً. سباق سنة ال ٢٠١٩ سوف يجري في حدائق الحسين العامة في نفس موقع سباق السنة الماضية، ٢٠١٨. 

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Registration opens at 9:00am, with the race starting at 10am. Girls will compete in either the 8 to 10 or 11 to 14 category, and awards will be given to the top three finishers in each division. The awards ceremony will follow the conclusion of both races.

التسجيل يبدأ عند الساعة التاسعة صباحاً، و السباق سوف يبدأ عند الساعة العاشرة صباحاً. الفتيات سيتنافسن في أما فئة الأعمار ال ٨ الى ١٠ أو ال ١١ الى ١٤ سنة، و الجوائز ستعطى الى المراكز الثلاثة الأولى في كل فئة. حفل التكريم سوف يجري بعد إنتهاء السباقين. 

Note, for girls who attended our camp, this location differs slightly from camp practice field. Please reference the map and coordinates for the race details.

ملاحظة: للفتيات اللواتي حضرنَ معسكر التدريب، موقع السباق يختلف قليلاً عن موقع التدريب. الرجاء مراجعة الخريطة و الأحداثيات لتفاصيل السباق.

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2019 Week 4 Camp Highlights: Speech from Coach Rawda, Summer Forrester Visits, Completion Certificates

By Sophie Zinser, Jordan Director of Operations

Grey clouds greeted the girls on the last day of camp, but dreary weather was no match for their energy and enthusiasm. Girls ran out of the busses chanting and screaming for Nina Camp, high-fiving me on the run in and greeting each other excitedly before tossing frisbees and playing clapping games with their favorite volunteers before activities started.

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When everyone had arrived, Head Coach Rawda got the girls in a circle for a team warm-up, chant, and review of the rules of camp. She then split the girls into four groups, one with her, one with Coach Ru’a, one with RC Coach Hanan and one with RC Coach Umana. The girls had the experience of rotating coaches, meaning that each group of girls got to work with all volunteers and coaches throughout the day. The games involved sprints, frisbee tosses, and even a bear crawl (from Coach Ru’a)!. The girls concluded the activity warm up with a twenty-minute staggered run, ensuring that the girls were going faster and getting increasingly prepared for the race.

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Today’s batch of excited volunteers were joined by a special guest, who arrived to bring extra sports equipment for the day, some additional bottles of water, and the printed camp completion certificates: Summer Forester. Summer volunteered at the first and second Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls back in 2016 and 2017, first as a Fulbright Scholar and then as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Purdue University. After completing her PhD at Purdue in Political Science, Summer stopped by Jordan before beginning her teaching appointment at Carleton College in Minnesota this fall. She reflected throughout the day on how smoothly the camp activities were going, and how the girls seemed to be really enjoying their time at the camp.

After a tasty lunch of shawarma sandwiches, apples, and bananas, the girls all gathered and were greeted by a surprise: Coach Rawda had changed her outfit! In an inspirational lecture to the girls, Coach Rawda shared she is also an assistant principal as well as a coach. She explained that women, regardless of background or outfit, can be whatever they want to be and contribute in numerous ways to society.

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Coach Rawda then introduced Summer to the camp, and Summer thanked the girls for their enthusiasm and work throughout each camp day. Sophie then stepped in and shared Nina’s story with the girls. She reminded them of Nina’s core values that they had reviewed throughout the camp, and assured them that Nina’s family and friends all across the world are thinking of the girls and the incredible work that they accomplished over the past month in Nina’s honor. The certificates, she said, represented a tangible memory of the camp that the girls can carry with them forever to remember the incredible times they had with each other. Each girl had her name written on the certificate above the words stating in English: for her participation in the Nina Brekelmans camp and for her commitment to Nina's values: kindness, honesty, intelligence, and respect for others. Reminding the girls of Nina’s memory will continue to inspire them for years beyond this year’s camp!

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The girls then each got a photo with Summer, Sophie, and Coach Rawda, Coach Ru’a, RC Coach Hanan, and RC Coach Umena. The photo resulted in some great poses, and the girls were excited to receive a special gift to honor their hard work.

With not enough time left for journaling, and with one week left until the race on April 27, Rawda instructed the girls to take their notebooks home, imagine Race Day, and draw themselves succeeding. Calls of “See you at the race” could be heard as the girls all ran off to their busses home, talking and laughing in excited anticipation.

2019 Week 3 Camp Highlights: Perfect weather and self-defense training with Lamis AlZaim of SheFighter

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By Carol Fadalla, 2019 Fulbright Leader

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Amman at Al Hussein Public Park for our third session of camp. Volunteers arrived at 9:30 am to set up in anticipation of welcoming large a contingent of girls from Reclaim Childhood and Sawiyan as well as a growing group of individual campers from across town. As a succession of yellow buses arrived at 10 am, a wave of eager and excited girls ran onto the field. The bonds formed between the girls was evident as they hugged and greeted the friends they have made over the past weeks!

Coach Rawda assembled the girls along the white line of the soccer field, welcoming them back and reminding them of the running camp’s goals. After Coach Rawda kicked off camp, volunteers Abdullah and Abdelqayom Albasha let the girls in a series of stretches and speed drills. While Abdullah and Abdelqayom had hoped to compete in the Boston Marathon this upcoming Monday, unfortunately their visa is still under review. Instead, they donated their time today supporting camp.

Practicing timing for the Nina cheer

The first activity was a running warmup where girls had to run from one cone to the other along the soccer field. The older girls were assigned as leaders,  and they each led their younger peers and encouraged their team members to do their best.

After two rounds, the girls started to run farther as volunteers offered high fives to them after each successful lap along the way. Then the girls cooled down with a set of stretches and a water break.

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Before lunch, Coach Rwanda gathered all the girls in a circle, told them to place their right hand in and chant: Nina, Nina, Nina! On their lunch break, the girls sat under the shade eating their delicious Shawarma and choice of fruit. The volunteers began to lay out the journals and, after eating, each camper was invited to take their book back to the soccer field.

Today's main journal question was: what makes a good team player? Before writing their own answers the girls shared their thoughts in a group, mentioning respect, helping those who fall behind, and caring for each other as important aspects of teamwork. After discussing as a group, each student was given five minutes to reflect on their own and record their answers. After each student provided three important aspects of teamwork, volunteers collected the journals and prepared them to meet our amazing guest speaker for the day: Lamis AlZaim, a trainer at SheFighter Amman, the leading self-defense school for women in the Middle East.

Started by Lina Khalifeh, SheFighter is a renowned organization that has been featured on AJ+ for its mission to advocate for women’s rights through martial arts. It is the first self-defense training center in Jordan. We were honored to have Lamis lead a workshop with the girls to share this mission and encourage them to be powerful. First, Lamis gathered the girls in a semi-circle and discussed the importance of self-defense as a tool for empowerment. The girls sat in awe as they listened to and watched Lamis demonstrate the core moves of self-defense. For each demonstration, the girls raised their hands to volunteer and participate in the demonstration, with sincere anticipation to practice themselves. Finally, the girls partnered up and practiced the moves they had just learned. After a long day filled with activities, the girls gathered their bags to leave and get on the buses. The volunteers cleaned up and debriefed their thoughts on how the camp went. Overall, another great day in Amman!

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet the Albasha Brothers

By Dickson Mercer, Foundation Vice President

Abdullah and Abdelqayom Albasha competing in Jordan.

Abdullah and Abdelqayom Albasha competing in Jordan.

Abdullah Albasha at the Boston Marathon in 2018

Abdullah Albasha at the Boston Marathon in 2018

If this were last year, Abdullah Albasha would be in Boston right now, ready to be the only resident of Jordan racing the world’s oldest marathon. He would have received his travel visa a mere four days before the Boston Marathon and then spent two months of pay to make the 13-plus-hour flight in the middle of the night.

But this is 2019, and as I write this, Abdullah is once again a Boston Marathon qualifier, but this time is still waiting for his visa. Same goes for his brother Abdelqayom who, after hearing about Abdullah’s race experience, stepped up from his preferred half marathon distance to get his own “BQ” at the Dubai Marathon (he ran 2:40).

The journey to Boston started while on a run in Amman in 2015 with a group of Americans studying Arabic. It was as simple as one of the students saying to the brothers: You should run the Boston Marathon.

Abdullah and Abdelqayom were then still new to the sport of running. They had started running for fitness, then got hooked into races around Amman. After the run, they researched the race, learned more about its history, marveled at stories about massive crowds of loud, adoring spectators, and simply knew they had to do it. “We liked the story of the Boston Marathon,” Abdelqayom recalls.

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So, as they pursue a 2020 Olympic dream and a goal to run all six world major marathons, the brothers have set their sights first on Boston. This has created a tough choice: train enough to get faster and race well, or – as they lack sponsorship – work enough to afford the trip.

When we talked, it was 2 a.m. Amman time. Abdullah and Abdelqayom, who visited the U.S. embassy to apply for their visa in November, had just finished a restaurant shift.

At an international school where they coach, a student’s parent had expressed interest in sponsoring their trip to Boston, they say. This could have enabled them to work a few less shifts and run a few more miles. Without a visa, though, the parent had nothing to sponsor.

Undeterred, Abdullah and Abdelqayom kept working, hopeful the visa would come through.

Nina’s Camp meetup in Boston - Abdullah with Board Member and former Fulbright student Matt Liston

Nina’s Camp meetup in Boston - Abdullah with Board Member and former Fulbright student Matt Liston

“It hurts,” says Abdullah. “It really hurts. But friends around us support us all of the time. They encourage us to keep going.”

The Albashas surely will, just like Abdullah kept going in last year’s Boston Marathon as bitter cold, pouring rain and devastating winds slowed the 2:39 marathoner down to what runners sometimes call a personal worst. These were possibly the toughest conditions in the race’s then-122-year history, but Abdullah refused to drop out.

“I’m the kind of person, I don’t like to quit,” he says. “No matter what, I need to finish what I started.”

It’s not unlike the encouragement provided by Abdullah and Abdelqayom at the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls. The brothers have supported our camp for three years as steadfast male allies and key volunteers in our women-led organization.

“[The girls] always want to compete,” Abdelqayom says. “But we told them, like, just go for a run, compete with yourself… and that’s how you win.”

Last year, Abdullah shared with the girls the story of someone he met at the Boston Marathon expo: Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. The way he sees it, the girls participating in our annual five-week camp and race could revolutionize running in Jordan like Switzer did in the United States.

Leading starting instructions at the 2018 Race

Leading starting instructions at the 2018 Race

Since discovering the joy of running, Abdullah and Abdelqayom have been committed to helping others feel that joy too – and, like Nina, who they both met, using running as a platform to bring people together and make a difference.

They come from a humble family and came to Jordan as refugees from Iraq during the war. Now the running camp has helped bring things full circle by enabling them to inspire women and girls primarily of refugee backgrounds from their native Iraq, as well as Syria, Palestine and Sudan.

Many of these girls, like the Albasha brothers, have overcome enormous obstacles in their lives to make their way to a safer life in Jordan.

“The girls come to camp and they want to learn lots of things,” says Abdullah. “They’re so excited. … I don’t know, it just feels awesome.”

Our foundation is proud of Abdullah and Abdelqayom, and we’re grateful for their support. While they won’t be in Boston this year, we know they will be inspiring our campers in Jordan – both by what they say, and by what they do in races to come.

Awards ceremony at the 2018 Race

Awards ceremony at the 2018 Race

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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

Support #GivingTuesday with the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation

On this Giving Tuesday, we at the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation want to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported the organization throughout the past three years. We’re proud to see the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls grow and thrive, and we’re looking forward to making the 2019 camp and race the best yet. As we reflect on the year, we wanted to highlight some of our milestones from the last camp and share plans for the future. We also hope that you’ll consider supporting the Foundation as we expand to meet these goals.

2018 Highlights

  • The camp welcomed 30 to 40 girls each week with lessons on running, role models, sportsmanship, strength training and nutrition. The girls also participated in fun games, team building activities, journaling, and cheers. Just as last year, the majority of this year’s campers joined from refugee communities in Jordan, including girls from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Sudan.

  • We again hosted the Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls and moved to a great new course at Al-Hussein Public Park. This year nearly 70 girls ages 8 to 14 joined for the race. We awarded trophies to the top finishers in both our younger and older divisions as well as a trophies for the top finishers in each age group from the camp.

  • We were joined by two amazing new head coaches, Rawda Hamadneh and Ru’a Al-Abweh. With Rawda’s background in teaching and coaching in Jordan and Ru’a’s passion for running—including with the November Project during her time in Seattle on a Fulbright to the US—we’re amazed by the passion and energy of our leaders. Furthermore, the camp is excited to bring on one of last year’s Fulbright leaders, Sophie Zinser, to act as our Jordan Program Director to work alongside Rawda and Ru’a to manage on-the-ground operations and planning.

  • The Foundation strengthened in-country partnerships with other nonprofits and government organizations. We continue to work hand-in-hand with Fulbright students and Reclaim Childhood. We love the passion of our Fulbright students and were lucky to have four excellent leaders last year: Amanda Swenson, Sophie Zinser, Nicole Khamis, and Hayden Bates. Further, Reclaim Childhood continues to be a fantastic thought partner over these past two years. We work directly with them to connect with campers in the refugee community, and they are always ready and willing to pitch a hand on all aspects of the camp and race. The Foundation was once again selected by the U.S. Department of State for grant funding, and we received support at the race from Run Jordan, the country’s largest organizer of road races—who provided in-kind donations of hats and water bottles. The camp and race were made possible by an core group of dedicated volunteers connected with the Fulbright and Jordan running communities. They helped to support our campers and are central to the heart and soul of the camp.

  • Finally, the camp and race would not have been possible without you, our community. We are grateful that so many of you donated time, money, and energy to supporting the camp on behalf of Nina and the camp’s mission. Likewise, we’re thankful for our Board of Directors and Board of Advisers who volunteer their passions and ideas to make the programs possible and run behind the scenes. This year, our organization aims to share more frequent stories and content from the camp and race so that others may share in the fun stories of our campers, personalities of our volunteers, and work of our board. We recently launched an Instagram account (@ninab_camp) and plan to be more active with our social media presence and newsletter communications.

Since it is Giving Tuesday, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to help support the camp and race in 2019. This year we’re setting an ambitious goal of raising $5,000 to underwrite the camp and race. The camp’s expenses have grown to fund new practice space rentals, increased transportation costs for campers, and direct support materials like tshirts, snacks, and journals. We’re again planning to apply for federal grant funding, but we rely on individual contributions to cover the remaining camp and race costs. Between now and the end of December 15, any donations made of at least $50 will receive a “Nina patch” included with a thank you note. For donations of $100 or more, we’ll also send a tshirt from our camp or orange tshirt from our 2016 Georgetown race (sizes subject to availability).

On behalf of the Nina Brekelmans board, thank you all!

Sincerely,

Mary Grace Pellegrini

President, Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation

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Announcing the 2018 Nina Brekelmans Memorial Endowed Scholarship Recipient: Grace Makhoul

The 2018-19 recipient of the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Endowed Scholarship is Grace Makhoul. Congratulations Grace! 

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About Grace

Ms. Grace Makhoul, a first-year candidate in Georgetown’s Master of Arts in Arab Studies Program, is the 2018-2019 recipient of the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Scholarship. Originally from Homs, Syria, Grace graduated from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana in 2018 with a BA in Peace and Global Studies and Comparative Languages and Linguistics. As an undergraduate, she was heavily involved in student government and was also a strong advocate for international students’ rights and promoted awareness of the Palestinian cause. She has interned at UNRWA USA—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees—in Washington, DC, where she served as a research and administrative intern. Grace has been serving as a selection officer and a PR manager for the United World Colleges Syrian National Committee for the past four years. Her pas research has focused on finding alternative solutions to protracted camp placements and the viability and sustainability of multilingual national policies. Grace hopes that her time at CCAS will allow her to utilize lessons from those former experiences and focus on how education can be used as a tool in development work in the region.

Mabrook Grace! Thank you to everyone who donated and made the scholarship possible!

-Biography courtesy of Georgetown University

2018 Race Recap from the "Jordan Times"

"Late US runner's race gives young girls a chance to run towards success"

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By Camille Dupire - May 5, 2018, Jordan Times | Link to Original Story


AMMAN — Seeing the 80 young girls supporting each other outside of the bus that brought them from various parts of Jordan to take part in a race honouring his late daughter Nina Breklemans was “the most powerful tribute to her legacy”, Nico Breklemans said on Saturday. 

Him and his wife Gail came from the United States to attend the capstone race of the five week running Camp for Girls conducted at Al Hussein Park to honour the memory of Nina Breklemans, a passionate American runner and Arabic scholar who passed away in 2015.

“Nina absolutely loved the Arab world and its language. She studied Arabic for years before moving to Egypt and Jordan for her studies,” Nina’s childhood friend and president of the Nina Breklemans Foundation, Mary Grace Pellegrini, told The Jordan Times at the end of the 1.5km race.

“During her time here, she won several running championships including the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon in 2014, and got involved in the running community, where she made a lot of close friends. She also volunteered with Reclaim Childhood, seeking to improve the lives of refugees and young women through sports,” Pellegrini continued, noting that “this is what pushed Nina to apply for a Fulbright fellowship to research the experience of female distance runners in Jordan”. 

The Nina Breklemans foundation was formally established as an NGO in 2016, aiming to “continue Nina's dream of fostering sports opportunities for young women in the Middle East by supporting running programmes in Jordan to encourage healthy living, women’s empowerment and altruistic values”, according to its president.

Eighty young girls aged between eight and 14 years old on Saturday morning took part in the final race, after attending weekly trainings throughout the month of April.

“The Running Camp was not only about athletics, but also about teaching these girls the values that Nina cherished, such as honesty, solidarity and integrity in sports,” said Sophie Zinser, a volunteer at this year’s event and a Fulbright fellow herself, adding “we spent five weeks coaching these girls about self esteem, healthy living and good character traits”.

“We had speakers talking about motivation, fitness, or opportunities through sports etc., and the girls would write a journal with feedback and thoughts on the sessions,” she recalled, stressing “it really made an impact on their lives and their behaviours”.

She cited some young girls who “had never run before” while others “were already quite experienced”. “It didn’t matter as what we tried to foster at the camp was a sense of solidarity, kindness to others and goal setting by talking about the example of Nina,” Zinser highlighted, voicing her happiness to see girls support and mentor each other through the race.

“It is not about who wins anymore. At the beginning, they saw that as a competition, but, as we cheered for them this morning, it was clear that they only felt pride and happiness in completing the race anyhow, not about who finished first,” remarked Qais, a Syrian refugee who volunteered at the race. 

“When I see so many girls from all parts of Jordan and from so many nationalities [participants included refugees from Sudan, Palestine, Syria…] bond over what my daughter lived for, I am so grateful and proud,” said an emotional Gail Breklemans, adding “this is the third consecutive year we come to see this race in Jordan, and it is an amazing testimony to our daughter’s legacy.”

After the race, the young runners listened to speeches by Nina's family and friends, organisers and coaches who supported them throughout their training. They received hats and water bottles from Run Jordan, whose director, Lina El-Kurd, knew Nina from her time racing in Jordan. 

Supported by Fulbright, the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation, Reclaim Childhood, and the US embassy in Jordan, the race included young girls from Mafraq, Zarqa and Amman Governorates. 

“Even though it is still a small scale race and I know that Nina would have been able to gather many more people, it is a first step in carrying out her ambition of expanding opportunities for women and girls through sports in the Middle East,” Pellegrini concluded. 

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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