5 Ways Volunteering at C4R has Changed My Life

#Capoeira #DavisProjectsforPeace

In fall 2014, I studied abroad in Amman Jordan, where I discovered the Afro-Brazilian art form of Capoeira. It changed my life.

I was living in a new country and a new culture, it gave me a community and friends, and allowed me to express myself physically and creatively in a way that I never had been able to before. I don’t think I missed a single training the entire semester, I spent most of my time with my capoeira group, and as my time in Amman was winding down, I kept thinking, “I have to share this with everyone!”

At the end of my semester, I got an email requesting a call for grants from a program called Davis Projects for Peace. This program gave me an opportunity to design a peace-building project and implement it the following summer. I jumped at the opportunity to return to Amman! At that point, I had made friends with many different capoeiristas in the region, and I asked them how I could use this grant to create a positive impact using capoeira. From the feedback they gave me, I designed a women-focused capoeira program that developed leadership and capoeira skills for host Jordanian women to use to support refugees coming in from Syria. A few months later, after a stressful interview for the shortlist of the grant, too many frantic meetings scraping advice from my professors, and the general impending sense of freedom/doom that comes with finishing your last semester of university, I received the email: “Congratulations! Your Project Selected for Funding as a Davis Project for Peace!” I screamed. I laughed. I cried.

Fast forward a few months later, I’ve invited my best friend to come with me, successfully matched the grant through a crowd-funding campaign, bought capoeira instruments and flights, graduated from UC Berkeley, and all of a sudden I’m back under the scorching Amman sun.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last 6 months:

1. Volunteering is like yoga: It teaches flexibility, discipline, patience

I’ve volunteered abroad before, but each country, each organization, each moment in time is so different. I came with a detailed plan, a budget, and a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm. I arrived with my best friend Alice, and everything we had wanted to do changed. Our intention was to create a women’s project that started in June and lasted until August, developing women for a Training of Trainers Program. What I got was Ramadan in July, 30 plus Celsius weather everyday, and the now-seemingly obvious information that a Training of Trainers program can take a year to even single out willing participants.  Alice and I, being avid yoga enthusiasts, bent, stretched, breathed through the pain, and now the programs are running successfully in Amman at ActionAid, at Ruwwad in Jabal Nadheef, and in Azraq with Care ☺ We even have a new women’s program at Emirati Jordanian Camp!

2. Everything you hear about the refugees is wrong.

I work with women and children every week who have undergone incredible hardship; women who long for their homes, their land, the familiarity of the streets they grew up on. I work with children who know more about and have lived longer in a refugee camp than the country in which they were born. I have a core group of women in my class at Emirati Jordanian Camp, and the diversity is phenomenal: mothers, teenagers, wives, aspiring fighter pilots and lawyers, dancers and singers. I have one student who is worried about a family member she hasn’t seen in years, who is in Syria fighting. The same woman, though talks to me things that I also worry about, like weight loss, and looking nice for your partner. The refugees are ordinary humans who have been forced to leave the danger in their country.

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3.SO much work goes into creating a peace-building project

There is a huge difference between volunteering for something, and actually creating a project, and designing and implementing my own project was HARD WORK. There is so much administrative work that goes into creating social change projects that you never get to see. The end result of a capoeira project is a trainer or two giving beautiful, organized classes to a full group of students. What happens behind the scenes was so much more than I ever expected. So many people put in work to create a single class; we have amazing staff members building relationships with donors and partners, fundraising, managing logistics and finances, keeping social media up-to-date on what’s going on. There are so many details that need to be attended to, from how a project will be funded, to whose making sure there’s lunch .

4. Not everyone will support you. And that’s okay.

Many people, friends, family and strangers, were shocked and terrified when I told them I would travel to Jordan to volunteer. I’ve been told many times that psychosocial support for refugee youth should not be a priority, I should be doing something better or important, like giving people food. And, that’s okay, and also true. And if I could give food to those who don’t have, I would. According to WorldHunger.Org, the world produces enough food to feed everyone, so shouldn’t we all be feeding those who don’t have? I’ve seen capoeira transform the lives and attitudes of kids who, fortunately enough, do have food and shelter in the camp they live in, but not much else. I give what I am capable of, and at C4R, I’m enabled to give a safe space for music, sport and play.

5. Regardless of what I gave, I got so much more back.

I came with funds and a plan, the drive to learn and create, and the attitude of the “ideal volunteer.” 😉 What I’ve gotten back though, far surpasses what I came with. I’ve learned so much from so many different people with incredible experience. The team at C4R is so diverse, and I’ve been able to soak up so much knowledge from this team, especially our incredible leadership team, who started the organization themselves in Syria. I’ve learned how to work with people from all over the world, and I’ve received valuable trainings on child protection and working with people in conflict zones. I have had the opportunity to support, participate, lead and learn about all parts of the organization, from field work, to M&E, donor & partner communications, fundraising, social media, etc. I feel so prepared to continue in the development field with the support of my colleagues and with the experience I’ve gained volunteering here.

So, now that you know five ways volunteering at C4R volunteering at C4R has changed my life,  check out this article on how YOU can get involved.

Twitter @kasandralexis

How to Volunteer at Capoeira4Refugees

So, you’ve heard about C4R, maybe you’ve checked out Kasandra’s recent blog post and watched Jad’s Interview about volunteering at C4R, you’ve checked out our website, followed us on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram, and now you’ve decided you want to be a part of it all. You’ve decided you want to be a part of using capoeira for social change, make a positive impact in the lives of refugee youth, and maybe learn a few new things along the way. Here’s how!

  1. Check out what we’re looking for! You can find our current openings here (link). Do you see a position where you’d be able to apply your skills? Awesome!
  2. Fill out theGet Involved Form – You can find it here (link). Give us some information about yourself, and let us know why YOU should be volunteering for C4R
  3. Send us your details- If you’re applying for a specific job, email us your CV & cover letter, and any other information requested per the job description. All emails should be sent to applications(at)capoeira4refugees.org
  4. Hang on ☺- Once you’ve filled out the Get Involved Form and we’ve received your application materials, you should hear back from us within a week.
Before you apply:

Working with vulnerable young people is a real commitment and we want to make sure that real relationships can be developed. For this reason, we require a minimum 6-month commitment from each of our volunteers.

The reason is that firstly it takes at least 2-3 months for you to get now our students and the team. Also C4R has to ensure that you know all guidelines, policies and we also need to get you a security clearance to enter the camp.

We also encourage all volunteers to fundraise before coming to C4R to cover your expenses and to help C4R in it’s mission.

How else can I get involved?

Don’t see anything that fits your skills, but still keen to be involved? Send us an email to hello(at)capoeira4refugees.org with the subject line “MUST BE INVOLVED!” highlighting why you must be involved and how you’d benefit our mission, and attach your CV.

Also, we need massive support from sponsors, NGOs, and especially the capoeira community. There are plenty of ways to get involved besides volunteering! *Like/Follow/Share our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! *Create a fundraiser for C4R– you can make a roda, use our material to raise awareness about the benefits of social capoeira. The funds you raise will bring music, sport & play to refugee children and youth. *Become a monthly donor, support us with a Coffee and Cookie a month!

What happens if I don’t get accepted to volunteer?

We want to be as transparent as possible and we do try to get back to everyone, but as a small charity we may not be able to get back to those who are not selected for interview. (We would love to have a dedicated Volunteer Coordinator) If we cannot get you involved straightaway, it doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected and move forward later on. C4R is constantly growing, and developing its projects; and it is likely that the opportunity to have you join will come up. We do keep a record of your potential!

C4R wows audience at Al Hussein Charity Bazaar

We were delighted to take part in the Al Hussein Annual Charity Bazaar on Friday, December 4th at Landmark Hotel in Amman. Under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Raad Bin Zaid, the annual Charity Bazaar is designed to raise funds for the maintenance of Al Hussein Center through the sale of international goodies and treats. This year, the room reached full capacity and the audience had the chance to do some original Christmas shopping while attending a series of entertaining shows.

We had a fantastic capoeira performance and really appreciated the keen interest towards our programmes and commitment to transforming the lives of youth refugees.

 Warmest thanks to our staff and all the volunteers whose efforts and deep passion contributed to our first and successful participation in this charity event! If you took photos or videos, post them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #C4R2015!

Happy Human Rights Day!

Today is International Human Rights Day (check out your rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). So what is C4R doing today? In marking this special occasion, Capoeira4Refugees is celebrating the human rights of child refugees and young people (and everyone else).

C4R promotes the right to play for those kids who suffered and are suffering incredible hardship. Capoeira’s mix of art, music and dance is also all about freedom of movement. Today, when debate rages about restricting the migration of refugees into Europe, capoeira is a timely reminder that freedom of movement is a joy and a right.

To learn more about C4R and human rights, check out our blog called ‘Got Rights?’

2015 Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue Award Nomination

Capoeira4Refugees received some exciting news this week. We have been nominated for the 2015 Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue Award. This prize is awarded by the Anna Lindh Foundation in recognition of an organisation’s contribution to inter-cultural dialogue. The award will be announced on 19th November. Really well done to our volunteers, supporters and staff who have made this possible.

Living with Syrian refugees in Turkey: “It’s So Easy to Help”

C4R trainer Muuj (25) went to Turkey for a touristy trip. But when he saw the dire situation of Syrian refugees, he decided to spend his days with them instead and share some capoeira energy.  

“I went to Turkey for tourism. It was my second trip out of Palestine, after coming to Jordan. I wanted to experience something new, meet new people. I chose Turkey because I have a friend there, a Syrian refugee who is trying to get to Germany.

There were a lot of Syrian refugees in Istanbul. I saw them living on the streets. They were sleeping under trees when it was raining. Their situation was very difficult. I was shocked, it was much worse than what I had seen in Azraq camp. I didn’t see any organized camps in Turkey, I just saw people on the streets.

I didn’t get to do much tourist stuff. I went with the Syrian refugees to the place where they try to cross from Turkey to Greece. I experienced what it is to be a refugee. I lived with them, slept in the rain with them. Food was not always available. We got very tired. We walked a long distance to get to the border, and in the end, it was all for nothing. They sent everyone back to where they came from. The experience made me more aware of what others go through. In Palestine, I had friends who lived in a camp, but I never felt what they felt, until I lived it myself.

I also felt the lack of freedom. At some point, the police stopped me and kept me for four hours, thinking I was Syrian. They asked me why was I there and what was I doing there, but there was no one talking Arabic or English. Only Turkish. When they finally brought me someone who spoke English, I was released from the police station.

While staying in a field with the refugees, I started to train capoeira for myself. Kids soon gathered around me. What I did caught their attention, especially the acrobatic movements, so they wanted to learn from me. They started to come every day, around twenty children, and I began to train them.

Of course it was different from my regular training. For these kids it was something new, that someone trains them, cares about them, plays with them and lets them laugh. They enjoyed it a lot. They even continued training after I had left. And when I walked around the field where we were staying, they would say to their fathers: that is my teacher, he teaches me capoeira.

I learned a lot in those eight days. I saw how refugees really live, how they suffer. How they need someone to pay attention to them and provide them with the things they need. For a part of those people, namely the kids, what they need is someone to take care of them, to give them time to train and feel happy. I saw a lot of kids who were very sad, unhappy and tense. But as soon as you came to play with them and to sing with them, they cheered up. Their feelings changed.

It was not difficult at all to do that. In fact, it was very easy. I am used to training kids, and they liked the movements I was doing. It was a beautiful experience, and I hope that many people will try to do the same. To feel how they feel. It is not important from which religion you are, from which nationality, from which country. We are all humans, we have to help each other.

It was the first time I experienced that you don’t have a place to sleep, that there is no food, there is nothing. That you are depending on other people for everything. Their situation is really very difficult. It was an experience that made me sad, but also one that I think everyone should try.”

(translated from Arabic)