Laura's Unique Experience at Azraq Refugee Camp
In November Laura Nicholls our Sport and Education Manager, travelled to Jordan in the Middle East to deliver a unique coach education course at the Azraq refugee camp. Azraq Camp is the second largest refugee camp in Jordan, currently hosting over 26,000 refugees with 25% of the population boys and girls aged 17 or under.
As part of the Premier League's international coach development programme and in partnership with World Vison Jordan, a bespoke 4 day programme was designed using the specially designed curriculum based on that used on Premier Skills, the Premier League's globally renowned programme run in partnership with the British Council.
Laura travelled with Jez Weeks from the Premier League and Warren Leat of Stoke City. 36 male and female coaches from several humanitarian agencies, including a number of Syrian refugee volunteers, were selected for the programme, to allow them to develop new skills and ideas, to allow them to deliver a new football league and regular coaching sessions for young boys and girls living within Azraq.
Laura was the lead coach for the 12 female refugees who lived on Azraq or the neighbouring Zatari camp. She spoke of her initial impressions when she first arrived
"what struck me was how vast the camp is, it has the capacity to house 100,000 people, currently its only just over a quarter full, yet there just seem to be people everywhere, trying to create some normality for their families".
"The football pitches that World Vision have built are clearly going to be the centre of the community, the amount of people who surrounded the pitches each day, just watching and wanting to be involved gave you an indication of what an important role football can play, it had already clearly given the refugees something positive to focus on".
The first three days of the programme were spent educating the coaches on how to develop safe, engaging activity for young people. The course spends time on the pitch, modelling and showcasing activities that the coaches can use and in the classroom, where they are able to plan activity and understand what coaches have to consider when working with young people.
"Because of the nature of the venue, this was the most unique learning environment I have ever delivered in. Our classroom was right on the side of the pitch, open to the elements which made for interesting situations. On the 2nd day of the course, we seem to go through 4 seasons of weather in one day, meaning that in the morning we were hunting for shade and by the afternoon, we found ourselves hugging together trying to keep warm and away from the huge thunderstorm that was taking place above us!"
The final day, saw 80 children attend a festival, which the coaches planned and delivered using the skills they had developed within the course.
"This was by far the most overwhelming part of the week for me, the children were so excited to be playing on the pitches, the coaches thrived in the environment and put into practice what we had worked on for the previous 3 days. The learning journey they had been on in such a short space of time was incredible and I instantly became confident that we had made a difference and that football was going to become part of everyday life for the coaches and the children at the camp".
"I felt like I had made a real bond with the female coaches and that despite the language and cultural barriers, we had gained a real strong understanding of how they can use football to build a stronger community and this is no different to what we do at the Trust everyday."
Hiba Nader Al Absi, female coach on the course, spoke about her experiences
"I have loved every minute of the course. Before I came I never had the confidence to play or coach football now I realise it is my job to show young females on the camp that it is alright to play and through the skills I learnt on the course I am now much more confident to do this. Having a girls only pitch on the camp means we all have somewhere safe to play. The smiles on the girls faces when they entered the pitch today makes me realise just how much football can change the way we live and socialise on the camp"
What is really important is the legacy that was left behind following Laura and the teams departure. With the help of the Jordan Football Association and World Vision, an Azraq Football Committee is has been formed with male and female coaches from the camp as well as representatives from WV and JFA. This committee will help develop the programming on the pitches which will include open coaching sessions for boys and girls of all ages, tournaments, football festivals and help create the league for both children and adults. The coaches from Zatari camp that attended want to also be involved in this committee to continue the relationships built during the week between the coaches from the 2 camps and help arrange future matches and events involving both camps.
Laura summarised her experienced
"On our final day, World Vision took us on a tour of the camp. We witnessed how a sanitation and clean water infrastructure has been established, along with small village communities. This experience is something that will stay with me for a long time, to be able to try and make a small difference to the lives of people who have been forced to leave their country through no fault of their own and give them something that will help as they try and rebuild their lives, gave me a true sense of purpose. I look forward to monitoring how the football programmes develop on the camp."