CHANGE THE WORLD THROUGH SPORT
The GirlPower X Kickstart Joy X hummel Jordan projekt
In February 2019, hummel was introduced to the non-profit organization KickStart Joy from New York. KickStart Joy organizes soccer practice for children in the larger Jordanian refugee camps, and they reached out to hummel to talk about the possibility of working together for their upcoming training camps in August. KickStart Joy’s mission – as the name lets us know – is to bring joy and laughter to the children and letting football be a way for them to forget about their situation, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
At this very moment more than 115.000 Syrian refugees are living under harsh conditions in large camps in Jordan. For the thousands of children living in the camps, the daily life is characterized by fear and uncertainty.
Mehdi Ballouchy, founder of KickStart Joy
Mehdi Ballouchy, the founder of KickStart Joy and former professional soccer player in the American Major League Soccer explains:
“I first got the idea of running soccer programs in refugee camps during my last year playing for Major League Soccer. There was a lot going on at that time with Syria. I knew I wanted to help. I wanted to stick to what I know best – soccer – and there were a lot of kids in these refugee camps. The most popular sport in Syria is soccer, so I knew soccer would bring a lot of joy to these kids and help them escape their situation - even if its only for the 90 minutes a match last”.
KickStart Joy reached out at the perfect time, since we were in the middle of planning activities with Afghan Khalida Popal and her organization GirlPower, an organization we have been supporting through a number of years.
Khalida and GirlPower’s mission is completely in line with both KickStart Joy and hummel’s Company Karma philosophy and uses sport as a way to make a positive change in the world. GirlPower has a special focus on empowering women and girls from different social and cultural backgrounds, which made the project in Jordan highly relevant, since the Syrian girls are a very vulnerable and exposed group.
We saw this as the perfect opportunity for GirlPower and hummel to become a part of the project in Jordan. Firstly, it gave us the opportunity to focus on the girls, and secondly, we could become part of a project that already had experience with travelling in Jordan and knew how to handle the logistical challenges that comes with arranging soccer practices under the difficult conditions in the big camps.
So, hummel said yes. The same did Khalida Popal and Girl Power without hesitation. Many phone and skype calls later, Khalida Popal travelled to Jordan in August with her bags filled with hummel footballgear to play soccer with the girls in the refugee camps Zaatari and Azraq.
“Football has only one language and that is love & unity - that has been proven to me so many times. Especially here, where we were only able to communicate with each other through one language and that was love and excitement of the game.”
Four days of hard work and lots of joy
Over four days, more than 100 girls had the opportunity to play football for the first time as a group, while some had their first experience ever playing football. Meeting for 10 hours each day, the coaches were able to train multiple groups of youths ranging from 10 to 16-years-old. We talked to Khalida about her experiences in Jordan. She tells:
“One of the reasons I’m doing this is because I have been through this, I was myself a refugee. The first time, when I was in Afghanistan and the Taliban occupied the country, and I was only 8 or 9 years old. I had to leave the country together with my family and live in a refugee center for 8 years in Pakistan, so I know what they are going through, and I feel related.
Every time I do something in refugee camps for the girls there, I feel like that’s my childhood, and what I needed in my childhood is what I’m actually going to provide them because when I was a child in a refugee center, I didn’t have this opportunity.
So I know that what I’m doing is no big thing, it’s not life changing and I can’t change their situation or what they are going through, but I can just say that maybe for one hour I can help them to be happy and forget everything around and hopefully just focus on the moment. And if soccer and a simple piece of gear can help someone to be happy for a day, that’s what I want.”
Khalida og pigerne
“It is heartbreaking to see those kids and families stuck in a refugee camp, where they cannot go outside the camp, where they have to live a life they don’t want to. And so many kids out there they have no idea why they have to live this life they don’t deserve.”
“The girls were super super happy about the soccer practice and the football gear that we brought down from Denmark. I have been in different asylum centers and I have provided many pieces of equipment and gear for kids in those asylum centers, but it was the first time I felt the real happiness when one piece of gear could bring so much happiness to someone. It was amazing, and I wish I had the opportunity to bring more, to every kid in that asylum center.”
- Khalida Propal
A special moment
“Yes, when I did training with a group of U12 girls… in a very short period of time we made this strong relationship, and although I didn’t speak their language and they didn’t speak my language, we could still communicate via soccer and still could love each other… when they were saying goodbye… they came together and told me to stay and wait, and they went together in a circle, they said something in their language, and then they came as a team with a broken bracelet and gave it to me as a gift, and they were kissing me, hugging me. And that was really really different, and I loved it. That’s how sport can bring joy and happiness. Every time I do something like this, it proves to me that it’s more than a game. It brings happiness, joy and and love.”
Asked about the greater impact of running training camps for the refugee girls Khalida states:
“It will help to get more women, more girls into sports especially in football, I usually say football because I am from football and it helped me. I’m sure it helps so many women and it will help empower the girls to gain self confidence and self-esteem.”
While it’s Khalida’s hope that in a year from now the families will be able to return to their homes, and there will not be any refugee camps in Jordan, her goal is to gain support and develop a more sustainable GirlPower foundation where she can lead training camps every 6 months, involving additional female coaches and the mothers of the refugee girls.
For more information on Girl Power, KickStart Joy and hummel check out the following links: