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

thumb_DSCN0134_1024.jpg

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!

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.

NinaGirlsInitiativeLogo_OrangeBlack-01.jpg
NinaRaceForGirlsLogo_OrangeBlack-01.jpg

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.

thumb_DSCN0016_1024 2.jpg

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)

484263_3491870819963_1095483384_n.jpg

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.

IMG_2404.JPG

2017 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls Results

start_photo.jpg

2017 Race Details

What: 3K running race for girls ages 8-14

When: April 22, 2017 - registration starts at 9:00 AM, race starts at 10:00 AM with awards to follow 

Where: Al-Hussein Youth City (Sports City) near the Squash Courts (Gate 6)

Registration: Registration is free, and you can sign up at the race

Awards: Awards will be given to the top 3 girls in each division. We'll have tshirts and medals for all participants. Water will be handed out on the course and at the finish line. 

Sponsors: Sport City, Fulbright, Unlimited Distances, BOOST, and the U.S. Embassy in Amman. 

2017 Results

Girls Ages 8-10 | Girls Ages 11-14 (2 pages)

Congratulations!

IMG_2302.JPG

A MAJOR congratulations to all of our runners at today's Nina Brekelmans Race For Girls! We are so proud of you! In addition to runners from Amman, we were honored to welcome girls from south Jordan and Irbid. You all rock.

Throughout the camp Reclaim Childhood and Ruwwad | رواد التنمية have been indispensable partners. They do amazing work with refugees and youth across Jordan. A large portion of our campers are involved in these two programs, so please take time to check out their work!

Thanks, as always, to our sponsors at نادي مدينة الحسين للشباب/ Al-Hussein Youth City ClubFulbright Jordanمسافات بلا حدود Unlimited DistancesBOOST, and Siniora AlQuds - سنيورة القدس.

And a special thank you to today's volunteers and coaches. Full blog on the race to follow! 

Mabrook!

Race Details: 2017 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

2017 Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls

DETAILS

What: 3K running race for girls ages 8-14

When: April 22, 2017 - registration starts at 9:00 AM, race starts at 10:00 AM with awards to follow 

Where: Al-Hussein Youth City (Sports City) near the Squash Courts (Gate 6)

Registration: Registration is free, and you can sign up at the race 

Awards: Awards will be given to the top 3 girls in each division. We'll have tshirts and medals for all participants. Water will be handed out on the course and at the finish line. We'll 

We are thankful that Sport City has once again agreed to be our presenting sponsor. Likewise, we're grateful for support and backing from Fulbright, Unlimited Distances, BOOST, and the Embassy in Amman. 

For more details, follow along with our Facebook page. Good luck to all of our runners, and remember to stay hydrated for energy. See you tomorrow! 

Running for Nina: Loss and Redemption at the Boston Marathon

This Monday, April 17, 2017, you can find me toeing the line in Hopkinton for the 121st Boston Marathon--specifically wave 2, corral 4, bib 11281. For many people in Massachusetts, they may feel that running the Boston Marathon is their birthright. I will one up that to say that in many ways I owe my actual birth to the Boston Marathon as my parents first began spending time together when my mother was training for her first Boston Qualifier. Running with a cute Louisville medical student seemed like a good way to drop some extra time. She ultimately ran 3:17 to qualify with my dad pacing her through the last 15 miles, and--as they say--the rest was history.  

Over the course of their running careers, my parents competed in a combined five and a half Boston Marathons. When the 100th Boston rolled around, both knew they would want to be part of this monumental event, and they were deliberate to register early qualifying marks. Their passion and pride for this race left an indelible impression on my six-year-old mind. As Patriot’s Day approached, Make Way for Ducklings was in heavy rotation for bedtime reading requests, and on race day, I happily shared with my kindergarten teacher (who was a runner) that my parents were competing in the 100th Boston marathon. That pride was enough to overcome some sheepish embarrassment when she shared this fact with the entire class at morning announcements.  

This Monday it’s my turn to race and my parents’ turn to cheer. I’m so proud to have them here with me to support my efforts to join the family “Boston Club.” As race day draws closer, I realize that I haven’t just been training for the Boston marathon for the past few months; I’ve been preparing for this practically my whole life. And as rewarding as this milestone is, it is not without a dose of unshakable sadness.

This April is approaching the two-year anniversary of the death of my good friend and teammate, Nina Brekelmans, who passed away in a Washington, DC accident. Her death left me devastated, angry, and deeply in despair.  At the same time, I had been robbed of my usual way of coping with sadness--through running--as I had torn my ACL months before in a non-contact soccer injury. I was broken physically and emotionally, and more than ever I longed for the therapeutic rhythm of running to help me find clarity and process the unimaginable. And yet I could barely walk.

On the morning of Nina’s funeral, I was angry at the world. I indignantly shed the full-length leg brace that I had religiously worn for the previous two months and set out for a feeble jog. I wobbled through five minutes of a lopsided crawl before I broke out openly sobbing in the middle of Rock Creek Park. That would be the new normal for the next few months.

I flatly rejected that tragedy would define the end of Nina’s story. She was too good a person--too intelligent, too kind, too loyal--to see that disappear. And as I considered how to honor Nina’s legacy more globally, I knew a small part of that had to begin with me. Nina loved running. Though she came to the sport later in life, she took to running with an unmitigated zeal. In a small, personal way, I knew that I could honor Nina by carrying on with the sport despite any setbacks.

Over the following year, I threw myself into physical therapy and doctor's visits. I ultimately forewent surgery and accepted that, while I would be able to run moving forward, my future in soccer/skiing/tennis/any lateral sport would be over. When I grew weary or began to pity myself, I would often think of Nina and channel her courage to keep going.

And so I trained. I continued running weekly with the Georgetown Running Club (GRC). I entered road races that I wasn’t fit for and logged slower times than ever before. At the same time, I threw myself behind ways to publically remember Nina. I began organizing a memorial 5K at Georgetown University with GRC and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies--Nina’s graduate program--as a way to bring the community together.

Before her death, Nina was preparing to move to Jordan on a Fulbright grant to study the growing women’s athletics movement in Jordan and the broader Middle East. She aspired to create opportunities for women and girls to participate in running as a way to foster women’s empowerment. And to be honest, when Nina first pitched me this idea in the fall of 2014, I silently thought she was crazy. However, it turns out that she was really on to something. In the aftermath of her passing, I began to meet more of Nina’s friends both in the United States and abroad in Jordan. Without fail, people spoke of her kindness, superb command of the Arabic language, and true love for Jordan and its people. It seemed like there was a genuine desire to do something to really honor her life, and this sentiment would ultimately become the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls.

In March 2016, we held the 5K race at Georgetown, which helped reach the final fundraising goal for an endowed scholarship through the Arab studies program in Nina’s name. Similarly, that weekend launched the official start of the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls in Amman. At the end of five consecutive Saturday meetings, nearly 25 girls would participate in the camp, which focused on running and healthy living and included inspirational female speakers, snacks, and games. The camp was organized as a partnership between leaders in the Jordanian running community as well as Fulbright students in Amman. In late March, organizers decided to host our own race for the girls as a capstone event after another race was cancelled. Notably, this would be the first girls-only race in Jordan. I had previously booked a ticket to compete in that now-cancelled race, but fortunately the plans aligned and away I went for the Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls. To my astonishment, nearly 70 girls showed up to Sports City, the premier sports facility in Amman, for a festive race with esteemed speakers, music, and community support. It was fantastic seeing the girls’ pride as they showed off their finishers medals. Equally rewarding was seeing the positive support from mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers as they cheered on the runners to victory.

I returned from Jordan with a renewed resolve to see the camp and race continue. I was also inspired by the grit of our campers and knew that it was time for me to take the next step in my own running comeback. I would need a goal to sustain me through these challenges, and so it seemed like the time to chase the ultimate dream: I would qualify for the Boston marathon. Between April and June, I buckled down and trained, and in late June, I finished second at the Bay of Fundy International Marathon in Maine with a time of 3:20. I was going to Boston.

In the months ahead, things picked up for the camp and race as well. We incorporated as the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation and applied for 501(c)3 nonprofit status. The Foundation raised funds and was awarded a State Department grant to double the size of the camp and race. And all the while, I trained--though maybe not as much as I needed to.

Saturday, April 15 marked the final day of 2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls. This year, our runners represented the full diversity of Jordanian society, including a large portion from refugee backgrounds. The campers diligently trained and learned weekly about nutrition, strength training, self-confidence, and role models. They heard from amazing runners in Jordan and the United States, including American Olympian Abbey D’Agostino, and enjoyed downtime with snacks and creative activities.

On Monday, April 17, I’ll run 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, which is truly a dream come true. On Tuesday, I’ll waddle to Boston Logan airport and catch a flight to Jordan for the second annual Nina Brekelmans Race for Girls on April 22.

IMG_1975.JPG

This year has been a whirlwind, and there are so many people to thank who made all of this possible. To list them out individually would probably exceed the length of this already wordy blog, so I’ll do my best to keep it short. I’m grateful for Coach Jerry and my GRC teammates for encouraging my comeback and supporting me even when I lagged at the back of workouts. I’m thankful for a great medical team and close friends who believed in me and cheered for me even when things seemed unlikely. I’m forever indebted to the dedicated board members of the Foundation, our rockstar Fulbright organizers, and amazing coaches and volunteers in Jordan who are the day-to-day force behind the camp and race. And finally, I’m thankful for family--my own parents and the Brekelmans family--who have supported these initiatives on behalf of Nina since day one.

Tomorrow, you can find me in Boston wearing bib 11281 and grinning from ear-to-ear with a “Nina” patch on my GRC jersey. Two years ago on this date I was unable to walk and worried if I’d ever really run again. Now, I’m 26.2 miles away from joining the family “Boston Club.” I never imagined this would be the path to my first Boston marathon, but after all the adversity I consider just being here a victory.

This blog was also shared on the Georgetown Running Club blog at http://blog.grcrunning.com/. 

2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 4 Recap

Our last and final camp day started with the girls registering for the race next Saturday, April 22. Then, Coach Ibrahim led the girls in stretches. As the girls were in a circle around him, he introduced three camp guests. First, Ms. Tamara Armoush, a Jordanian mid- and long-distance runner who has broken three Jordanian running records and who was the first-place female competitor in the 10-kilometer race on Friday, April 14, as part of the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon. Second, Ms. Georgia Cottle, a runner from Scotland who was the first-place female competitor in the 21-kilometer race at the Dead Sea on Friday, and third, Ms. Hanoia Ali, a runner on Sudan’s national long distance team. She trains in Jordan and has won the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon several times. Hanoia was also one of Nina's closest friends and training partners in Jordan! 

Coach Ibrahim explained that girls are strong and highlighted these three guests as prominent examples and role models. To emphasize this point, he shouted several times “what are girls” to which the girls responded enthusiastically “STRONG!!” He then invited each of the guests to lead a few of their favorite pre-run warm-ups. Next, Coach Ibrahim led the girls and guests on a three-kilometer run that mirrored the race course for next Saturday. The girls did a good job of running, even after some of them had to take breaks to walk in between. Finally, they wrapped up the exercise portion of the day with sets of sprints. Coach Ibrahim broke the girls up into groups of four, which allowed many girls to boast afterward about coming in first or second place. The sprints always get the girls excited about running and competing!

Our final lecture came from Ms. Farah Hashem, who is a Jordanian sprinter with the fastest time in Jordan for the 60-meter race. In addition, as part of a Jordanian team, she won third place in the 4x400-meter relay at the last West Asia Indoor Championship. She talked about being a female runner in Jordan and emphasized that being a good runner requires not just athletic training but also eating healthy and keeping up with your studies. She described her path to becoming a runner, starting as a soccer player, becoming part of a track team, and eventually winning a bronze medal at the West Asia Indoor Championship. She also highlighted the importance of her studies at the American University of Beirut, from which she graduated recently, while continuing to run seriously there. She concluded by answering the girls’ questions about her path and running. During the Q&A, she emphasized that she is as passionate about her studies as she is about running as well as how this has helped lead to her success. By the end, she had inspired the girls, their chaperones, and the other volunteers.

Before lunch (once again generously donated by Siniora Food Industries), the girls watched a video put together by Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation President, Ms. Mary Grace Pellegrini. The video featured different U.S. university-level runners and coaches discussing why they love running, when they started running, as well as advice for competing in a race for the first time. The girls learned that it is important to enjoy running, something that comes more easily through the friendships formed with teammates, as well as to pace themselves while running—rather than start off sprinting, which is something the girls love to do!

After lunch, Coach Ibrahim and the volunteers organized group pictures and a small ceremony to present each camper with a certificate of completion. The girls loved getting to come up, take a picture, and receive their certificate. They admired the high-quality printing and enjoyed shaking different guest and volunteer hands—especially those of Tamara, Georgia, and Hanoia, who participated in the camp all day. After getting psyched up about the race next week, the girls left smiling with extra sandwiches and their certificates in hand.

2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 3 Recap

Our third session started off at the same time as Jordan’s largest clean-up campaign, which targeted dozens of public sites across the country—including Sports City. Although Sports City was very crowded as the girls gathered, Coach Sweity and Coach Ibrahim organized the girls and took them on a 2K run. This run differed from previous weeks because the coaches instituted a no-stopping policy to help prepare them for the race in two weeks. This meant that the girls ran or walked the whole time without any pauses. After the run, the girls enjoyed a water break before moving on to stretches, led by Coach Sweity and Coach Ibrahim. 

Next, the girls moved inside to the Sports City Squash Federation’s classroom for a presentation on healthy eating by Dr. Dania Qaryouti. Dr. Dania joined again by popular demand from last year’s camp. She focused on helping the girls identify healthy meals. She also covered the benefits of healthy eating and signs of an unhealthy diet, including eating disorders. Her comprehensive presentation on consuming healthy meals included interactive activities. Specifically, she instructed each of the girls to write down what they had eaten for their past three meals, and then she invited them to present these descriptions—which the girls clamored to do! During the presentations, she asked all the girls to identify the food groups included in each meal as well as to highlight any foods that could have been added to make the meal healthier. Before concluding, she had the girls write down examples of healthy meals, helping to reinforce her lessons.

With their appetites engaged, the girls then headed back outside for lunch (donated again by Siniora Food Industries). After enjoying lunch among the trees and sunlight in the recently cleaned Sports City, volunteer Kelly Connors led a quick running skills activity with the translation assistance of volunteer Abdelqayom Ahmad Mohammad Albasha. Kelly, who is preparing to run the Boston Marathon for the second time, gave the girls advice about how to run more efficiently, using the correct breathing techniques and running form. She then told them about the benefits of envisioning yourself finishing a race, and she had each girl draw herself crossing the finish line at the Nina Brekelmans 4K race in two weeks. Before wrapping up the day, the girls excitedly shared some of their pictures and thoughts about running the race.

2017 Running Camp for Girls: Coaches Spotlight

With the second annual Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls now in full swing, we want to introduce a few of the people in Amman who make it possible: Coaches Mohammad Al-Sweity, Batoul Arnaout, and Ibrahim Abu Asbeh.

Each of them knew Nina personally, and they have committed their time and energy to help the Foundation fulfill Nina’s mission of expanding opportunities for women in Jordan’s running community. Their combined experience as competitive athletes, coaches, and community leaders proved invaluable for our success in 2016, and we are thankful to partner with them again in 2017.


Mohammad Al-Sweity

Mohammad Al-Sweity has been instrumental to building the camp. As our head coach, Mohammad Sweity plans the weekly training sessions and leads the girls through workouts. He shares instruction on proper running form, stretches, warm-ups, and cool-downs and gives the girls insights into the art of racing. Last year, Coach Sweity gave a poignant presentation on the spirit of running and racing, during which he shared stories about Nina and her time as an athlete in Jordan. When Nina was drafting her Fulbright proposal, she specifically cited Coach Sweity as partner to engage for her research, so we are so thankful to have him on board. In his free time, Coach Sweity is an esteemed ultra-distance runner in Jordan. 


Batoul Arnaout

Batoul Arnaout also joined us during the inaugural year and assisted with workouts, group activities, and event planning. As both a competitive athlete and the founder of a local organization that promotes sports in society, BOOST: Better Opportunities and Options for Sports Today, Coach Batoul is well-versed in overcoming the challenges that face young women in pursuing athletics in Jordan. This year, she talked with the girls about how running improves self-esteem, promotes a positive body image, and fosters strong and healthy relationships within the community. Batoul is an amazing and inspirational athlete, and we're similarly thrilled to have her support. 


Ibrahim Abu Asbeh

Last but not least, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh has worked closely with us since the beginning to transform our idea of a camp for girls into a reality. Coach Ibrahim was the catalyst for meetings between our Fulbright team and the leadership at Sports City, which helped us secure access to facilities for the athletes, obtain a sponsorship for lunches during the camp, and gain access to the Sports City running trails to host the race. In addition to helping us with the camp logistics, he also coaches the athletes during each of the practices. In 2016, Coach Ibrahim surprised us all by initiating a series of relay races that ended up being one of the most fun and memorable episodes from camp. He has poignantly spoken about his friendship with Nina at the camp, and we're so grateful to have his involvement. In addition to being a runner in his own right, Coach Ibrahim is also the General Secretary of the Jordanian Athletics Federation. 

Many thanks to Coaches Sweity, Batoul, and Ibrahim for the time and effort they are dedicating to the camp and race!

2017 DC Run/Walk Hosted by Georgetown CCAS

12592365_1041552939256689_5985930882551320568_n.jpg

By Michael Brill, Foundation Advisor and Georgetown Alum (MAAS '16)

On March 19, 2016, nearly 200 runners came together on Georgetown University’s Copley Lawn for the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Scholarship 5k. It was a special day in which Nina’s spirit was powerfully felt: The race proceeds helped fund an endowed scholarship at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS). Meanwhile, the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls launched in Amman, Jordan.

April 23, 2017 will provide another opportunity to come together on the Georgetown campus in Nina’s memory. Nina’s professors from CCAS have organized a relaxed run and walk that will shine light on the progress that has been made to carry forward Nina’s vision. We will also be collecting donations for the running camp.

Beginning at 8:30 a.m., friends and colleagues will gather at the main CCAS suite, room 241 of the Bunn Intercultural Center (to reach CCAS, take the stairs or elevator down one floor after entering through the eastward-facing main entrance of the Intercultural Center building). After everyone has gathered in CCAS, there will be a community 5K run/walk starting at 9 a.m., followed by a breakfast and opportunity to share memories of Nina back at CCAS around 10 a.m.


Please RVSP at Eventbrite for this event.  We look forward to seeing you there!

12983975_1041491225929527_6409063589971054586_o.jpg

2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 2 Recap

thumb_DSCN0020_1024.jpg

The second day of camp focused on building self-esteem and discussing role models. The day started by distributing camp t-shirts to everyone before jumping into a 2-kilometer run. This run differed from last week’s and mirrored parts of the race course that the girls are scheduled to run on Saturday, April 22. After stretching and a water break, the girls cooled down inside with an interactive guest lecture from Batoul Arnaout, a competitive athlete in Jordan and founder of Better Opportunities and Options for Sports Today (BOOST).

BOOST is a well-respected local organization that promotes sports in society. During the lecture, Batoul discussed how running can promote positive self-esteem and encouraged the girls to think about things they love about themselves as well as about their fellow campers. For each positive trait that the girls shared, Batoul awarded them with a smiley face sticker. Many of the girls proudly wore these stickers on their faces for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon, the girls broke into two groups and took turns eating lunch (once again donated by Siniora Food Industries) and participating in a live, interactive Skype session with Abbey D’Agostino. Abbey is an American long-distance runner, who ran with Nina at Dartmouth College and represented the United States in the 2015 World Outdoor Championships, 2016 World Indoor Championships, and 2016 Olympic Games. Beyond her amazing athletic abilities, Abbey exemplifies true sportsmanship. Her collegial attitude gained global recognition in the preliminary round of the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics. During this race, she and another athlete from New Zealand selflessly helped each other after falling and encouraged each other to finish the race, despite their painful injuries and falling well-behind the other competitors. This action led to Abbey and the New Zealand athlete winning the 2016 Fair Play Award.

During the session, Abbey shared her incredible and inspiring story with the girls, through instant translation (thanks to one of our excellent volunteers, Sahar Shatat). She also explained the joys of running with a supportive team as well as the importance of running for love of the sport rather than for fear of losing or disappointing others. Abbey then took questions from the girls, who were excited to use video chat—particularly to exchange waves and big smiles with Abbey throughout the discussion. The Sports City Squash Federation graciously enabled these interactive, technology-based sessions by offering the girls access to a classroom equipped with reliable wireless internet and a screen. 

Altogether, the girls went home happy, decked out in smiley face stickers and their new Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls t-shirts!

Batoul Arnaout

Batoul Arnaout

Abbey D'Agostino

Abbey D'Agostino

2017 Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls: Week 1 Recap

IMG_3383.JPG

On the first day of camp, the girls learned about Nina’s legacy and did their first run together—one loop at the Sports City complex, which is exactly 1.8 kilometers (or a little over a mile). After the run, they took a water break before getting into groups and doing sprints for about 20 minutes. The girls seemed to really enjoy the sprints because of the short distance and thrill of competing with each other! 

Then they shifted into the first guest speaker presentation from Jasmine Kadoura, with assistance from her friend, Farah Shouani. The presentation focused on strength training as well as its importance for runners and involved four different exercises for the girls to try in groups of 10 to 15. These exercises included duck walks, using resistance bands, and doing ladder exercises. Jasmine concluded her presentation with a full-group exercise, where girls tried to catch a soccer ball so they could pick an exercise for the group to do (e.g., lunges, squats, push-ups, or burpees—which are a more elaborate form of a push-up). The girls seemed to really enjoy this game, as they tried to elbow each other out of the way so they could catch the ball, and then the girls waited in anticipation to see if the ball-catcher would pick a relatively hard or easy exercise.

We wrapped up the day by eating lunch (donated by Siniora Food Industries) as well as distributing introductory surveys for the girls to fill out about their views on running and healthy lifestyles. Overall, the girls seemed happy and excited to be out and about at Sport City on a nice day! 

Notes from Amman: Gearing up for the 2017 Camp and Race

The camp leadership team meets in Amman at Sport City to plan for this year's events. (L to R: Bishr Khasawneh, Lilly Frost, Lena Hamvas, Matthew Liston, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh, Batoul Arnaout, and Mohammad Al-Sweity).

The camp leadership team meets in Amman at Sport City to plan for this year's events. (L to R: Bishr Khasawneh, Lilly Frost, Lena Hamvas, Matthew Liston, Ibrahim Abu Asbeh, Batoul Arnaout, and Mohammad Al-Sweity).

By Lena Hamvas

Lena Hamvas is part of this year's leadership team and teaches English in Irbid, Jordan, as a 2016-2017 Fulbright scholar. 

Nina Brekelmans had a mission to improve running infrastructure for girls in Jordan and encourage healthy lifestyles through running, a mission we are determined to follow.

When a fourth grade student of mine heard about the running camp in class, she said, “Yes! I love running. Please, teacher, sign me up!”

When I asked teachers to announce the running camp in class to the girls, they lit up with excitement. One English teacher said, “Wow! That is such a good idea for girls in Jordan. This is wonderful because girls need to learn that they can do sports too, and the community needs more girls doing sports!”

There is a group of girls in Irbid, Jordan (1.5 hours north of Amman) who are taking English classes and heard about the running camp.  From these girls, 9 of 10 girls showed interest in running in the Nina Brekelmans Running Camp.  However, since they are far away from Amman and are not able to come to the camp each week, they have committed to practicing once a week in Irbid as a group with plans to join the girls in Amman for the race.

Fulbright volunteers at the 2016 race

Fulbright volunteers at the 2016 race

Campers with Batoul Arnaout, founder of BOOST and a favorite speaker and leader for the camp/race

Campers with Batoul Arnaout, founder of BOOST and a favorite speaker and leader for the camp/race

The local community is very excited about the running camp, and we are very excited to help build the infrastructure to make it all happen!

The Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls will have girls from many different neighborhoods. The girls range in age from  8-14 years old. A group of dedicated volunteers from the community at-large will help make the camp happen. The volunteers will be helping the girls with running practice and understanding the lessons given by guest speakers. We will have guest speakers who will speak about healthy lifestyles and about sports in the community and around the world. This year, the girls will have the chance to interact with runners from the United States who knew Nina Brekelmans. This is a good opportunity to exchange cultures through the love of sports.

After four weeks of camp, the girls will run in a race on April 22. This will give them a chance to use what they practiced during the camp and run in a real race. The camp and race will give the girls a chance to meet people in their communities who like to run and do sports. After the camp ends, we hope the girls will be inspired to continue doing sports in their community throughout the rest of the year.