This year, Reclaim Childhood (RC) opened a third program site in Mafraq, Jordan, building on its after school practices and summer sports camps for girls in Amman and Zarqa. The site in Mafraq will serve as an opportunity to bring more people into the Reclaim Childhood family, including girls, their families, and young women who are eager to serve their community as coaches.
Mafraq is located 80 kilometers from the capital Amman and close to Syria. The region is home to the Za’atari refugee camp and has hosted thousands of Syrian refugees for over a decade. Its proximity to Syria means that Mafraq has a high population of Syrian refugees, with over 150,000 refugees living in the region both within and outside of formal refugee camps. Tensions between Jordanian host communities and Syrian refugees have run high over the decade-long Syrian refugee crisis, especially as Jordan’s economic situation deteriorates amid rising global inflation. While the majority of refugees are Syrian, the region is also home to refugees from Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, and a variety of other countries.
Many had hoped that the Syrian refugees, who comprise the vast majority of Jordan’s refugee population, would be able return to their home country. However, human rights advocates and Syrians on the ground continue to report human rights violations and deteriorating humanitarian conditions within the country. Most refugees are unlikely to return to Syria in the near future.
Amid this backdrop, Reclaim Childhood’s program is much needed in Mafraq. The program, which aims to strengthen ties between diverse communities in Jordan through sport and play, will bring stability and joy to girls in Mafraq. One coach at the new site shared her experience of working with Reclaim Childhood:
"I’m Bayan from Syria. I learned about Reclaim Childhood from Facebook. I applied to be a coach and was accepted. The program is very enjoyable – both for us coaches and the girls. The girls have noticed that they feel happier following the programs over the two months we’ve been working. As a coach, I love all sports, but especially basketball.
As for the impact of the program, the girls used to show up late to practice because their families failed to appreciate the impact. But when the mothers came and saw how we run the practices, how we respect and protect the girls through our program, they started loving the Reclaim Childhood program. They saw the measures we have in place to ensure the girls feel comfortable and are protected throughout the practices.
We’ve really enjoyed the program and in fact, our girls have changed their personalities as a result. Their mothers tell us that they used to be shy and more afraid. Now, they’re starting to play together and develop a community together. Most of the activities we do are team activities, so it gives them a chance to get to know each other and build confidence. The program helps reduce the pressures that girls are facing.
Many of the girls I work with are great at soccer. We are looking forward to watching the World Cup!
To support Reclaim Childhood's work in Mafraq and throughout Jordan, click here.
Zoe H. Robbin is a Fulbright research fellow in Jordan, where she focuses on climate change, migration, and gender. She interned with Reclaim Childhood’s summer sports camp in 2016, while completing her undergraduate degree in Arabic and Quantitative Sciences at Emory University. In 2020, she joined the Reclaim Childhood Junior Board and continues volunteering at Reclaim Childhood’s afterschool sports programs in Amman. She tweets at @zoe_robbin.