Psychosocial Impact children and youth


The Psychosocial Impact of Capoeira for Refugee Children and Youth: Executive Summary

From 2013 to 2015, Capoeira4Refugees, in collaboration with the University of East London, participated in a two-year field study of the effects of capoeira on refugee children and youth in Palestine and Syria. Authored by Dr Kathryn Kraft and Hannah Prytherch, here is a summary of the long report. A mixed-methods methodology was employed.


Capoeira4Refugees uses Capoeira as a psychosocial tool to promote well-being among youth affected by conflict. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian craft that combines live music, sport, dance, play, culture and history. The long report evaluates the psychosocial impact of Capoeira in relation to Capoeira4Refugees’ existing theory of change which purports that Capoeira leads to improved psychosocial well-being through the development of five key domains: playfulness, emotional stability, friendship, tolerance and inner strength.

Capoeira and the Societal Challenges facing Children in Conflict

Most of Capoeira4Refugees’ students face the ongoing threat and consequences of political violence. This affects the regular scheduling of classes, attendance and the mental state of students. Hailed cultural values of loyalty and self-defence are often expressed through violence and many children live in a context where physical, verbal or emotional abuse is commonplace. Both males and females face increasing pressures as they pass through adolescence; the responsibility of financially sustaining their family often falls partially or totally on young men, whilst girls are expected to prepare for married life by staying in and learning domestic responsibilities.


Results indicated that Capoeira4Refugees students did appear to be experiencing psychosocial benefits through their engagement in Capoeira. Results were divided into four main areas: the distinctive features of Capoeira, the societal challenges facing children in conflict, the domains of psycho-social change, and the relationship between trainer and student.

Distinctive features of Capoeira

Capoeira combines sport, art, dance, music and play in a unique way. There is ample research demonstrating the role of physical activity and sports engagement in supporting psychosocial well-being. Capoeira is not just a sport, though, and indeed some capoeiristas would argue that Capoeira is not a sport at all. Its unique combination of various modalities and activities positions it well for meeting the felt needs of a diversity of students, and for providing psychosocial support in a holistic way through a clearly defined programme

Societal Challenges facing Children in Conflict

Most of Capoeira4Refugees’ students live in a context of on-going conflict or risk of conflict where political and social tension is common. Many of Capoeira4Refugees’ students have parents or loved ones who have been arrested, are in jail, or have been killed. Trainers found that these children reacted in a variety of ways, in some cases overcompensating through expressions of confidence or even bullying, or in other cases withdrawing or struggling to focus or engage meaningfully in activities. Many students also came to Capoeira with a large sense of burden, wanting to help support their families somehow

Domains of psychosocial change

Evidence supported Capoeira4Refugees’ theory of change, showing that through the five domains of change, Capoeira did promote psychosocial well-being in children and youth.

Increased playfulness gave students a means of self-expression and a chance to enjoy their childhoods, leading to feelings of happiness, joy and psychological freedom. These feelings extended beyond Capoeira sessions and resulted in increased joy and productivity in other areas of life. Similarly, emotional stability was seen through improved mood and ability to deal with difficult life situations. In the home and at school, students were calmer and more committed, disciplined and focused. The collaborative approach of Capoeira helped children to build new friendships, strengthen existing friendships and develop social skills.

Related to this, Capoeira resulted in increased tolerance; although Capoeira led students to feel better able to physically defend themselves if necessary, it resulted in a decrease in aggression and increased respect towards and acceptance of others. Finally, Capoeira developed inner strength and confidence, particularly in oft-disempowered groups like girls and low academic achievers.

Relationship between the trainer and the student

A final component of the psychosocial process not covered in the theory of change was the relationship between trainer and student. Trainers sought to model and develop values in themselves such as are respect, concern for others, self-control, patience and empathy.

They showed patience towards and invested time in their students, expressing pride in the practical and psychological developments they observed. The more trainers invested, the more likely students were to open up. Many students described their trainers as role models. Often these strong bonds meant that Capoeira continued beyond barriers and circumstances, with students training even when political circumstances meant that classes had to be stopped.

Most significant change stories

Capoeira4Refugees uses a variety of monitoring and evaluation tools to measure change in its students. The ‘Most Significant Change’ method is a quantitative tool that encourages students and trainers to self-report on what they feel have been the most significant changes to themselves and others over the period of a project. Below are some examples of MSC stories from Palestine and Syria.


She didn’t used to ask others for help, or the teachers. [Since she joined Capoeira] she is asking her classmates for help and she is working in a team with her classmates… if she doesn’t know something or needs help with something, she will ask. (Teacher interview)

He had no connection with the older students and they were much more advanced them him but after a few classes they started to respect Mustafa and you can see that they created a friendship also outside the class and treating each other with respect. (Trainer story)

Once, an airplane was flying low over [our town] while the group was having an open air training session. Normally, planes don’t fly low over this area of town and the kids were not used to the loud noise. They were playing in the roda when the plane approached but instead of stopping the roda they started to sing louder and wanted to play more. They almost screamed at the airplane while singing and it was as if they took strength from being together in the roda to fight their fear. (Trainer interview)

So, there’s a circle of violence. My dad is violent to me, I go be violent to my sister, my sister goes violent to my brother, my brother goes violent to the cat. So if my dad does that to me and I don’t do that to my sister, I break the circle. So this is one of the ways to break the circle. I do Capoeira, I’m not violent no more, the circle is never complete. (Student interview)


Sport is a proven tool for psychosocial improvement in children, along with music and play. The benefits of these activities are increased when combined. The long report highlights Capoeira’s unique combination of music, sport and play does indeed improve emotional wellbeing in children affected by conflict and that the students’ commitment often extends beyond the bounds of the original project periods. Children practise at home and in the street, spreading Capoeira to their family and friends, who in turn, also reap the benefits.

Click here to download the C4R_Psychosocial_Impact_of_Capoeira_4_refugee_children_and_youth_C4R_synopsis | Click here to download the full research on  C4R_Psychosocial_Impact_of_Capoeira_4_refugee_children_and_youth

The Unintended Consequences of Short-Term Funding

We all enjoy a good story, whether it’s a novel, a movie or simply hearing about an experience from a friend. The type of work we do – providing a safe space for children in refugee camps to interact with each other through music, sport and play – means that we hear a lot of inspiring and motivating stories.

Peppered in with the reports of progress and capacity building are a few stories that remind us of the trauma that the students we work with have faced. For example, after funding for one of our programmes was suspended, one young Syrian girl thought our female trainer had passed away!

Whilst we work to support these children in dealing with the impacts of trauma, this sad instance highlights the need for longer-term, sustainable commitments with strategic funding. This problem partially stems from the difficulty of humanitarian work in a context of regional instability. But a case for continuous, uninterrupted funding must be made. Long-term support not only provides flexibility (for quick responses to changing circumstances), but also allows for crucial relationships with staff and partners to develop. The band-aid approach does not leave much room to plan ahead, especially for longer-term psychosocial support programs in Jordan, for example.

True, there are other resources out there. Private donors are a target, particularly in regions where philanthropy is a focus. Philanthropic foundations can help, but this sort of funding sometimes comes with strings attached. Then there’s the all-too-familiar appeals and campaigns to the public who will give generously for urgent humanitarian relief. Meeting basic needs is imperative, but when was the last time an NGO launched an appeal for a multi-year women’s sports and health programme aimed at engaging participants in the design and implementation of activities?

This leads me to the issue of bridging the gap between humanitarian and development perspectives in policy and operations, especially when it comes to responding to a protracted crisis. Capoeira4Refugees is hopeful that donors will begin to think and see things differently. We recognise that this work is not going to solve the refugee crisis nor the trauma people have faced during the conflict, but it is uniquely placed to give young people a non-violent way of expressing themselves through physical activity. We use capoeira to convey crucial messages about health, social inclusion, promotion of gender equality and post-trauma relief, all of which are crucial for present and long-term development.

The path to achieving these outcomes requires a socially-responsible approach which enables the young people we work with to own their challenges and solutions. We need donors to tacitly acknowledge the magnitude of the crisis and to commit to long-term support. The solution would lessen the burdens on appealing organisations, by reducing time and cost spent on numerous short-term projects, resources can be freed up to be spent on the actual work. This solution would allow for a smoother transition at the end of our programmes so that no other children experience separation anxiety from our trainers.



We are very proud of our partnership with Smoogs!

Capoeira4Refugees is pleased to announce it’s partnership with Smoogs, are an awesome new disruptive framework that will allow us to accept ‪micro-payments‬ as donation for ‪streaming‬ our ‪content‬.

Capoeira4Refugees works to increase the social, physical and mental wellbeing of children in Refugee camps through music, sport & play. With the support of Smoogs, Capoeira4Refugees will be able to assist more underserved children.

Capoeira4Refugees CEO, Ummul Choudhury said the team is honoured to be connected with such a new and innovative initiative.

“I’m proud to announce Capoeira4Refugees association with Smoogs. We hope our partnership will help attract increased funding and raise awareness of the importance of our work within the camps. To celebrate the partnership we will be bringing you a new video directly from Azraq camp so you can see for yourselves the many benefits Capoeira has for the children. We hope our partnership will help attract increased funding and raise awareness of the importance of our work.”

Keep your eyes open for the new video, and view our current content here:

Christoph & Ralph for donating their birthdays to Capoeira4Refugees!

“I don’t need presents for my birthday. Why not give the money to a more important cause?”.

Instead of asking for presents from friends and family (who needs gifts when you have reached such a great age?), our long time friends and supporters, Christoph & Ralf, decided to celebrate their 40th birthday with Axe – by asking for donations to Capoeira4Refugees.

“It was a great party and we raised awareness for the important work Capoeira4Refugees is doing in Jordan, Syria, and Palestine.” Says Christoph, who has supported us for many years, and who even had the unique opportunity to experience first-hand the amazing impact Capoeira4Refugees work has on refugee children in Azraq Camp during a visit in 2015.

The amazing pair were surprised when donations reached a grand total of €700. “It’s simply amazing. It was a raving success. Our guests are delighted to hear about the ‘Donate your birthday’ idea, many are interested to hear more and everyone is happy to combine celebrating a good friend’s birthday with doing some good. They dance, they laugh, they celebrate, and the last ones left no earlier than 8AM.”

Now, Christoph and his girlfriend, Maika, are determined to do even more. They want to further support the organisation by growing the supporter base in Europe, as well as raising more crucial funds through a new fundraising initiative, C4R Germany, a German Verein (registered society/non-profit association). They hope to raise awareness about Syrian refugees in the Middle East and motivate people to support Capoeira4Refugees and it’s unique work.

19th of August is World Humanitarian Day! We want to take a moment to thank the many individuals who selflessly help us to achieve our goal – To reach as many children dealing with the impacts of conflict, through music, sport & play, as possible.

Happy Birthday Christoph & Ralph, and a huge personal thank you from Capoeira4Refugees!

Like the idea of donating your birthday? Please help us reach more children by following this link!


World Humanitarian Day to showcase amazing work

This week, we have been celebrating all the children we have reached since last year’s World Humanitarian Day. In the last twelve months, Capoeira has given children living in refugee camps a space to socialise and strengthen relationships. Students displayed mental and physical improvement, and were able to express themselves freely in class. Trainers also noted increased physical capacity, as well as positive behavioural changes.

 This is credit to our fantastic team; our trainers, trustees, board members, supporters, and of course, our partners. We’d like to thank you all for your patience and resilience when working to help young people deal with the impacts of war and the resultant physical, mental & social issues.

If you follow our Facebook page, Twitter, or Instagram you will have seen that we attended an event yesterday to raise awareness of the amazing work that is being done with young Syrians in Jordan. The event was a joint effort between Un Ponte Per and United Nations OCHA, and was to complement their “Learning4life” project.

It was an amazing day, with kickass (pardon the pun) and informative demonstrations from She Fighter, (a self-defence programme which supports & empowers women), and of course our own trainers, who did a sterling job. What made the event greater was the way it was covered by a plethora of social media activists, who were live tweeting with the hasthtag #ShareHumanity, #SyriaCrisis and #Jo, to really spread the message and raise awareness of the work that is being done.

Un Ponte Per has always cared for and empowered the communities which have wanted to bring about meaningful changes in society. So, when it come to empowering underprivileged children, they didn’t step back. We are so proud to be a part of this movement (sorry, another pun). Thank you Un Ponte Per!

We believe every child has the right to sport, music & play. It’s such a great feeling to know we are supported in this mission. These last couple of days are really a celebration of the winning combination of a great team and a hugely supportive network that continues to allow us to make real social change.

Thank you so much to the team, to you and to all of our supporters. Happy World Humanitarian Day!

Please help us reach more children by continuing to support our team. Donate via this link!