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Capoeira4refugees tests new tech platform in former ISIS HQ in partnership with UN Habitat to combine dynamic research through real-time support to help rebuild devastated Syrian infrastructure

Berlin, Germany (14th September 2019) – Capoeira4refugees (C4R), an award-winning Syrian born charity is reinforcing existing community networks in Al Raqqa and to identify local & community priorities and to deliver on activities that are top priorities.

Tarek Alsaleh, Founder of C4R “There is a huge problem with supporting local people as we don’t know what is happening on the ground. Through this platform we can make sure that everyone can see the how, the why, and where all the money is going. ”

We gave 146 billion dollars in aid last year.  Let’s feel good about that.

The Problem is, we gave less than one per cent of that money to local initiatives. Smaller local initiatives they keep struggling – day by day – to survive.

Small, local initiatives and organizations in crisis regions face 3 fundamental challenges:

1) The bureaucracy of applications and accounting (too much effort),

2) lack of trust (not enough information),

3) lack of visibility (unknown)

It means that Amr, who is running a sports project (link) with 200 children in Al Raqqa in Syria, can’t receive donor money quickly for his project.

Raqqa is an area which was liberated from ISIS almost two years ago, but 30% of the city is still totally destroyed. The community consists of internally displaced people and those affected by a prolonged war (food shortages, disrupted education, trauma and mental health issues).

A traditional model would see that Amr receives donor money through an international organisation that reports back to their donors about the project and markets its own brand to its supporters. This might include a lot of RedTape and bureaucracy.

Our partner FrontlineAid designed a platform to change this! We’ve put Amr into the driving seat, with his mobile phone.

Using only his thumbs he can automatically generate all the data and INSPIRATION that everybody needs. How many children he has in his classes, pictures, tasks/milestones, his goals and more.

His real time dashboard visualises GPS and timestamps data = as soon as an internet connection becomes available = and produce a real-time overview of the project = that is owned by Amr – not our organisation

For supporters, we will be able to have personalised connections, receive constant updates on projects and can work collaboratively on tasks in no time.

FrontlineAid aggregates data so that we can follow trends and give needs-based support to Changemakers so they can spend their time doing good, instead of managing paperwork.

We’ve put the tools at your fingertips and seek support to develop the platform to have more $$ available to Changemakers in Al Raqqa and connect them to supporters who also believe that local initiatives are more efficient and effective at addressing their own challenges.

Frontline Aid will deliver on the platform, providing the IT expertise that is required for the development of the platform. Capoeira4Refugees will provide the routes to local changemakers, partners, and ensure oversight and management of the Project. The Project is in partnership with UN Habitat.

Capoeira4Refugees is an award-winning NGO using sport, music and play to support refugees and conflict impacted young people. It has been supporting community leaders in Syria, since 2007.  Amr Berzawi who set-up the original project in former ISIS headquarters, Al Raqqa, in 2012, will help to mentor community leaders and research top priorities within the communities. Together, they will be working with over 500 traumatised children and their families.

FrontlineAid provides advice and tech solutions to meet actual needs in the real world and to make it easy for locals to connect to supporters like us. Faid has a particular focus on using innovative tech and sustainable development thinking to realize change at the local level in war and conflict settings.  

UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.

Press Contact

Email: hello@capoeira4refugees.org

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Meet Bashar, Syrian Changemaker in Berlin

“I used to work with refugees, now I am one.”

“I have been in Berlin for nearly two and a half years now”, Bashar tells me. We meet on a hot June day outside a café in Neukölln. He is an energetic, engaging character, yet he is marked with a shy modesty. This is reflected in his admitted reluctance to carry out the interview, as our conversation begins he tells me with a nervous grin that “it is not that easy, when someone asks you questions about your life.”


Bashar is a 29-year-old Syrian refugee who has been living in Berlin for nearly two and a half years. Despite having initially having fled the war in his country in 2012, it took him several attempts and several years to finally make it here safely to Germany. 

“When things started to get really dangerous in Syria , I had no choice, I had to escape” 

Bashar grew up in Damascus, one of the largest cities in Syria. It is clear from the offset that sports have played a huge role in his life. “I like sports” he tells me with a smile, “however, I started off with too many”. After getting bored with different kinds of sports, he remembers he was drawn to capoeira after seeing it on the PlayStation and in a movie. However, there was no capoeira in Syria – only a few YouTube videos. Bashar and some friends decided to make some their own moves. 

“Suddenly I met Tarek (founder of Capoeira4Refugees) in 2006-2007 maybe. He was somewhere in Damascus giving flyers out for this event – I was like, is this real capoeira?”

It was real capoeira. After meeting Tarek and a few of the others, Bashar became an avid player of capoeira: “For me it was always music and capoeira”. 

Tarek registered a local organisation in Syria CapoeirArab and was giving free classes to refugees. The classes with Iraqi children soon grew to include displaced Palestinian children. 

Bashar quickly became a senior trainer, he independently trained Iraqi and Palestinian Refugees, children’s’ classes, in women’s’ safe houses and in prisons. He also trained up assistant trainers (now trainers) and taught them how to build instruments, how to work with traumatised children, teaching skills and techniques. 

I ask him how this impacted him.

“It was good”, says Bashar, “I was young, and it was really refreshing experience, a really nice idea”.

“I used to dislike kids”, he says with a chuckle. “So, it is a good point, to meet these people and get to know them and learn about their experience for yourself. It had a big effect on me”.

Bashar tells me that, there was something relaxed nature and hierarchy of capoeira that he was playing with the refugees that really broke down a boundary: “it was just playing most of the time, not like a real teacher or a trainer, like above someone you know. It was playful; it was equal”.


Bashar’s involvement with this project ended in 2010 when he had to complete his mandatory military service. Bashar explains if you do not complete your service your papers are taken away. 

“If you don’t finish your service, you have no papers, no freedom, no options” “If you don’t finish your service, you have no papers, no freedom, no options”

“In the beginning it was not too bad” says Bashar, “it was just easy kind of stuff, just the usual military service”. “Then in 2011 when the revolution started everything became much harder and dangerous”. 

Without his papers – which were now held by the military – his freedom was completely lost. To add to his troubles, his service had now turned into a conscription into the Syrian army and he was tasked with morally complex and dangerous dilemmas. 

As the situation heightened Bashar, who is a 100% pacifist, did not want to fight, he knew he had to get out. 

“What happened when people were caught without papers?” I ask.

“They take you, ask who you really are. It is really dangerous. Even if you did not do anything wrong, you can just disappear”


Eventually Bashar managed to escape the war in Syria by fleeing to Beirut in Lebanon. “I tried to escape too many times to different places, but the easiest one was Lebanon.” Now a refugee in Lebanon, he faced the same problems when he was in Damascus. Without papers he could not travel or get a job. “I was stuck there for two years”. 

“It is not easy to get papers, I paid three times to get passport. Fake one, real one – I did not care. It did not happen for two years” 

During his time in Lebanon, he was forced to live mainly in hiding whilst he tried to register as a refugee. It was a heightened time of caution, if caught by the police, he would have been sent back to Syria. During this period, he was sharing a room with between 7 – 10 people. Access to food was also a massive issue and by 2013 he had lost a dramatic amount of weight. 

“Only the sea and Syria behind. There were no choices.”

Despite the difficult circumstances Bashar found himself in, he was still involved with several capoeira projects. He taught capoeira to Somali refugee children in East Beirut, worked with Syrian refugees through Save the Children and gave numerous presentations on conflict resolution on his journey to Germany. 

He occasionally made money through teaching at the local capoeira group, Sobreviventes, which he knew through the capoeira network he had become a part of in Syria. However, he explains that “living in Beirut was so expensive, the projects cannot really afford to give you money”.  Eventually, Bashar was forced to stop teaching as more and more Syrians were being stopped on the street by the police. If stopped, he has no papers and no money for bribes. 

“The Syrian government gave a new law which gave permission Syrians outside of 

the country to obtain a passport.” This was welcome news to Bashar, “I didn’t know about it before, so I asked someone inside and a mother of a friend went and found it that it would be possible for me”. 


With his new papers Bashar was able to travel to Berlin, where he met Tarek again. “It was a sort of coincidence, I don’t remember who told me Tarek was here, or maybe he sent something telling me he was in Germany”. Bashar then laughs telling me that he was surprised, “I am sure he had always told me he didn’t like staying in Germany”. 

“It felt like cycling to a workshop in Damascus” said Tarek who helped Bashar to get the class off the ground.

“Bashar is an incredible talented trainer; the kids and other trainers are fascinated by him. He has more life experience than a seven live cat.”

Just like several years ago in Damascus, Bashar and Tarek decided to team up to work on a project here in Berlin to help refugees through capoeira. “He was looking for a project to support, and I had this idea to do something, but it is not that easy here in Germany with the paperwork and the bureaucracy”. With Capoeira4Refugees able to give Bashar support, the idea got off the ground, “I really just need someone to help, if he can do the paperwork I can play capoeira with the kids again”

Bashar started the Berlin Project. The project has been running since May 2018 at the Refugee Centre in Neukölln. Every Monday Bashar, along with a small team of enthusiasic volunteers Elisabeth, Tom, Paul Amaja and guests, works with refugee children between 5-12 years old in groups of 15-30. The children who he works with are mainly from Syria and the Balkans. You can hear the children from the Refugee Shelter Haarlemer Strasse chanting ‘Ola e lala’ one of the songs they while walking us to the gate.  

The project aims to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of the children in a safe space. Using capoeira as a healthy outlet, they try to foster intercultural understanding and tolerance in the children and contribute to their integration into society.

Bashar is deeply passionate about the project, Tarek tells me that Bashar has always both hands full and can sometimes be hard to contact, in fact it took two attempts to get him to meet for an interview. However, he never misses a session with the children. Bashar is delighted to behind the project and more so to playing capoeira with the kids again. However, it is not with its challenges. As most the kids here speak German or other languages, “I don’t really have Germany yet, only a few words. If I say something the kids they sometimes make fun of you or don’t understand you.” 

He smiles, “I don’t just want to give up, if I don’t have the words I start to act and give expressions. Sometimes this might be scary for them if I look crazy – but I am not giving up”.

Bashar’s refusal to give up is a reflection of his determined character and strong personality. Bashar just stared another class in Berlin, Kreuzberg for underprivileged youth with mostly immigrant background and I am sure more will follow. Outside of the Berlin Project, music is a huge part of his life – he makes his own music and one day he plans to release his own album. As our conversation draws to a close, we discuss how no matter where he has gone or what circumstances he has been in, he has always been trying to make a positive change to people’s lives through capoeira. From Syria to Beirut to Berlin – Bashar laughs and informs me, “I am not as good a capoeira player as I used to be”.


Bashar wants to grow his social capoeira project to provide more classes for the children he currently works with. Will YOU support and help him? 

Click to share Bashar’s story on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and consider donating today if you feel inspired by his work! 

Photos taken and article written by Jack Anderson, C4R’s Social Media Network Coordinator– September 2018.

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Proyecto Casa Quilombo


Proyecto Casa Quilombo


Ecuador, Quito


Proyecto Casa Quilombo aims to create a permanent spacefor Capoeira Angola, which serves as the basis for the generation of social and cultural projects with a focus on human development and group facilitation.


The ACANNE – EC Foundation, with the different projects and spaces that have been opened for the development of Capoeira Angola, has positioned itself as the first and only social capoeira project, training more than 1500 young people throughout the 17 years. In addition, as an important part in the formation, practice and tradition of Capoeira Angola, four international events have been held with the presence of their Mestre Renè Betancourt. Finally, with Capoeira Angola and other accompanying tools such as Gestalt psychotherapy, social projects have been developed to prevent risk behaviors with young people.


Marginalised communities


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ACANNE.Ecuador/


As we come to the end of 2017, I’ve been reflecting on the idea of generosity of spirit. To work in an NGO in war zones and areas of conflict, tests our ability to be the best of who we are. Daily, we are faced with much of the worst of humanity.

Reading the Charter for Change: localization of humanitarian aid, an outcome of the World Humanitarian Summit held in 2017, it seems to me that a lot of us in the sector as a whole have forgotten what it means to be generous of spirit. When we are faced with the fact that 0.2% of the aid that Western actors give makes it to local NGOs, we have to do some serious soul searching about how we got into this position.

Capoeira4Refugees has always worked at a grassroots level, and has a track record of empowering local actors. In fact, the projects that we have worked on have led to replication, local jobs, and local ownership since our very beginnings in Damascus in 2007/08. This means that in Syria, Palestine, and Jordan we were able to close down our offices knowing that the work with capoeira was carrying on and locally owned.

As Capoeira4Refugees has grown and developed over the years, we have always sought to retain that generosity of spirit. This has shown up in our desire to partner and share our knowledge as widely as possible. This has shown up through our recently launched grassroots Changemaker Award. This has shown up through the volunteers and supporters who have helped us to keep the organization going.

The Charter for Change is a reminder that we all have to remember why we give and what we expect to achieve from that giving. And that sometimes, we require more than the best of intentions. We need to have that generosity of spirit, which allows us to face the darkest sides of ourselves and still be the best of who we are.

Seasons’ greetings to everyone!!

We would love to have your continued support in our efforts to keep pushing boundaries, and creating a real change on the ground. Do you want to give your support? Please donate here.

I look forward to 2018 with hope.

All the very best,


Meet Åsa, Changemaker fellow; Sweden

First steps in the art of Capoeira

Åsa first started Capoeira 30 years ago with a well-known Capoeira master Peixinho, with Grupo Senzala in Amsterdam in 1987. ”It gave me such a good feeling to to do the movements and I knew that I found my passion.” Åsa continued to train in Capoeira but  with another teacher named Paulo Siqueira in Hamburg. That same year, her native Sweden’s first capoeira workshop was held in Stockolm by her and Paulo’s teacher. After that the Stockholm Capoeira Association was formed.

Two year later in 1989, she moved to Gothenburg, Sweden to study theater science at the local university. During this time, Åsa and her teacher participated at the Falun Folk Music Festival three years in a row showcasing Capoeira movements. She also formed a capoeira group in Gothenburg under the leadership of Capoeira Master Dodo called Adaba. Åsa invited several other capoeira masters to become involved in the Capoeira scene in Sweden and she helped form groups around the country.

In 1994, Åsa visited Salvador, Brazil and trained with prolific Capoeira masters like Joao Pequeno, Pe de Chumbo, Jogo de Dentro and Claudio.

”That experience impacted me in such a profound way; it was during that time that my passion truly grew and I knew that this was my calling.”

Upon returning to Sweden, Åsa became acquainted with Capoeira masters Rosalvo, Roberval and Laercio, who she had invited to Sweden. In 1997, she invited M Roberval to join her and Grupo Filho de Angola was established.

Constant work to develop her passion

Åsa continued to pursue opportunities to practice and promote Capoeira and regularly visited Mestre Rosalvo and Contra Mestre Suzy in Berlin and also traveled to various international events throughout Europe. A pivotal time in her Capoeira career happened at Academia Jangada in Berlin, where she started to learn capoeira angola in depth and began to work seriously to understand this complex art form.  In 2002, she graduated as Treinel by Master Rosalvo and his Capoeira group Vadiaçao and in 2004, Åsa and her group in Stockholm became part of the FICA (Fundaçao Internacional Capoeira Angola) under the direction of Master Cobra Mansa, who began annually visiting Stockholm. It was at this time when Åsa began traveling regularly to Bahia, Brazil to advance her capoeira training. Later in 2004, she launched an international youth exchange project in partnership with Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) in a suburb of Stockholm, Fittja, which is a primarily immigrant and refugee community. Young capoeiristas from FICA, who had spent time in Massaranduba Alagoas in Salvador, Brazil, were invited to teach in Fittja.

In the summer of 2008, Åsa began working as a social worker in an outreach program in the Stockholm-suburb of Tensta (another majority immigrant community) that launches Capoeira activities and classes. Her capoeira group there began collaborating with the district’s crime prevention efforts among young people and saw the positive effect that Capoeira can have on youth.

”I saw amazing transformations of children who I was teaching through teaching Capoeira. Children became more disciplined and expressive through Capoeira. The change was so inspiring!”

Capoeira as a tool of deep change

Åsa went on to work as a physical education teacher in a school in Tensta, which is also one of Sweden’s most socially charged schools. Her capoeira group also began to engage with local associations in Tensta and over the years, they organised a series of events including a carnival and a talent show held during the annual Tensta Market. ”What I realised was so important to the success of these initiatives,” Åsa recalls, ”is that the the participants’ families are involved and supportive.”

The group in Tensta also runs different orchestras during school holidays involving teachers and students’ families in addition to summer camps and various open workshops in the park with dance, percussion or maskmaking. For the past four years, Åsa has also been running the Women Power Conference, which was organized with the aim of strengthening female leaders in the art of capoeira. Female masters and teachers of capoeira angola like Tisza, Gege and Adi with contra master Suzy were involved in this programme and came to Tensta in Stockholm several years to represent strong examples of female capoeiristas. Another aim of this initiative was to put Tensta on the map through the international capoeira network involving local organisations.

As Åsa worked as a physical education teacher for 20 years at various suburban schools in   Stockholm and has worked with and mentored many young people and their families. Åsa’s students are from all over the world, and through them she has come to know about different cultures that would otherwise be completely foreign to her.  She also discovered through her travels and intercultural work that capoeira and afro-brazilian culture has connections with the islamic and arabic culture. In fact, the Somali-Swedish community in Stockholm has become a part of her heart.

Difficult work is necessary work

Today, Åsa is employed as an outreach youth consultant through the Labor Market Administration (Arbetsmarknadsförvaltningen) of the city and the European Social Fund where she works with outreach to establish relationships with young people between 16-29 years in segregated areas that suffer exclusion. Her work in this capacity is to motivate and be a link to authorities and other support organizations who these young people oftentimes depend to finish school or to find decent work. Åsa works in suburbs of northwestern Stockholm, which unfortunately suffered from various riots and similar incidents the last years. With sadness, Åsa has followed several of the young people who have grown up in these areas, who are no longer with us. One after another, several of these young men have been murdered by other young men.

Åsa’s aim today is to work systematically with relatives and other close networks and young people directly in these suburbs to offer mentoring support by her outreach work.

”Despite the many challenges, it is so stimulating – to work in a politically-managed organization where my observations, methodology and results affect political decisions in my city.”