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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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.