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Champ Camp, a weightlifting initiative in Jordan

On International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, we’re highlighting an amazing project, by Waleed Abu Nada, a young change-maker from Jordan, who is working with an Olympic weightlifter to help build inclusion in one of the world’s largest Palestinian refugee camps. Here Waleed tells his story.

Background and Inspiration

I managed to launch my university’s [IE University, Spain] first Olympic Weightlifting school last year. I wanted to share my experience in this wonderful sport by guiding and coaching those who were interested. The school was a tremendous success and the results were overwhelming. Seeing how much of an impact it had on my friends who are privileged enough to study abroad and practice sports at any time – inspired me to go back home to Jordan with a mission.

Young Change-Maker’s Champ Camp providing opportunities for refugees

After doing some research last summer with the help of my National Olympic Committee, I managed to find Nadi Yarmouk Al-Baqa’a. It is a center in the heart of the largest camp for Palestinian refugees in Jordan: Al Baqaa Refugee Camp. Over there, there was a small underfunded training hall where Olympic Weightlifting was being taught by Captain Ali Al Gabri. This incredible man who’s been working with these kids for a while now by then and gave me more information about the work that is being put there. His role was coaching the group of boys and girls – and he was just the right man for that job. I visited the camp over the course of three months and worked with the children and Captain Ali there. I became very attached to this incredible group and only then, the whole idea of the ‘The Champ Camp’ came alive. I decided to release a documentary on the experience itself, highlighting the social struggles surrounding the camp and how the use of sport kept these kids full of heart and hope to raise more awareness:

The Champ Camp is now no longer just a small training hall. It is now a platform that paves a path full of opportunities for these kids – with it being their go-to place to escape their daily troubles and achieve their dreams. Through the help and support of the people around me, new equipment are gradually being delivered to our facility as I continue to try and enhance it. Individual results are being achieved as well with three of our girls competing in the West Asian Olympic Weightlifting tournament held in Jordan in October of 2017 – with all of them managing to win medals. Seeing their efforts being rewarded on an International stage was truly heartwarming and only further emphasized on the importance to continue empowering them through sport.

“The Champ Camp has helped revive the youth in our region by encouraging young girls and boys to be get involved in Olympic Weightlifting. Therefore, it had a huge educational role that led to raising awareness about the significance of sports for youth development amongst parents and our local community,”  said Captain Ali Al Gabri.

Young Change-Maker’s Champ Camp providing opportunities for refugees

What’s next?

Today, The Champ Camp operates as an initiative providing a safe home for these kids from the challenges they face daily. There are currently 25 kids: 14 girls and 11 boys. The school has been successfully empowering all its young females, emphasizing on the immense role women have not only in sport – but in life.

As we grow, I hope to establish that The Champ Camp is not solely a weightlifting school but rather a way of life. The vision for 2018 is to work on attaining better academic and social results for the kids through different means. This would be through incorporating with educational curriculums, public speaking programs and other tools that will help attain this goal. At The Champ Camp, we want to create individuals who can cope with life and go on to succeed in their business careers and family lives, no matter how many medals they attain as athletes. I don’t want to only contribute in building champion athletes, but rather champion people. This initiative is still in its early phases but the long-term objective is to remain operating to sustain the generations to come –  possibly expanding elsewhere should this model succeed. I am continuously amazed by the progress these kids keep on making. They now have broader horizons and continue to dream bigger. I have learned from them much more than I could ever give back and for that, I will eternally be grateful.

You can learn more about our work on FB and Instagram through: @TheChampCampJO

Source: IOC

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