“In Capoeira I forget the war”

For 8 year old Aisha the excitement for Capoeira starts way before the training and fills her day with a thrill of anticipation. Another example of the startling effect that the classes have in building hope for kids in conflict zones.

‘When there’s a Capoeira class I wait for it the whole day and count every second before I can finally go there.’
Like her around half of the kids participating in capoeira training sessions in Al Raqqa are girls. With a wink their trainer, Pulo do Gato, says that they are more reliable than the boys and faster at picking up new movements and songs. He says that ‘there are also a lot of girls who really like the moves and are eager to get better at acrobatics.’

A safe space to learn and play

The children don’t have school, rocket attacks are a daily danger, and kidnappings are rife. In such a stressful environment children are desperate for structure, and a safe space to play. Some children like Mariam, 8, have not been to school for two years. The capoeira classes give her a safe space, she says “in Capoeira I forget the fear and anxiety about the war. It’s as if there’s no war.’

Capoeira also provides a way of opening young minds to history and culture. 11-year-old Huda particularly likes learning more about another culture through Capoeira: ‘I like that we’re learning something about another culture that is different. We learn about the Brazilian culture and we learn Portuguese through the songs.’

A family activity

The classes are also a family activity, and help the children make friends and have something to do outside of the classes. Two of the girls, Zahra and Leila, sisters, eight and 10 years old respectively, have been coming with their two brothers since the programme started in June and never missed a single class. They practice on the streets, showing off their new skills and teaching their friends when there is no session. Zahra once took a pandeiro home to learn to play the rhythm: ‘We played the pandeiro all the time and didn’t want to stop’ she says.

There are also those students who are a lot shyer, and need a lot more courage to try some-thing new. Fatima was one of them. At first, only her brothers came to the class and she stayed at home, but they liked it so much and always told her to come with them and have fun together that around two weeks ago she agreed to come as well.

In class she stayed close to her two brothers and didn’t speak a word and when the others started doing the ginga she watched them wide-eyed. It took a lot of convincing on the part of Pulo do Gato to get her to participate, but once she had started a big smile appeared on her face and stayed there at least until the class was over. Even her brothers were surprised to see their sister joining in!

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