In a small village west of the Al-Mafraq Governorate, in the Northeastern part of Jordan, a haven stands for hundreds of thousands who were forced to leave their homes over the past decade, where Nora and Faisal reside.

Nora, a 19-year-old Syrian, embodies the hardships experienced by those compelled to leave their homeland, from the perilous journey of displacement to the emotional burden of adapting to a new culture and integrating into an unfamiliar society. On the other hand, Faisal, a 30-year-old Jordanian, represents the challenges within his host community, dealing with resource pressure, service demands, and unexpected demographic changes.

Despite their differing backgrounds, challenges, and priorities, Nora and Faisal chose a common path that positively influenced them and made them a source of inspiration and transformative change in their village of Al-Mansoura. For the first time, Faisal took on the role of a volunteer facilitator, as did Nora.

Through their participation in the Riadati programme, implemented by Generations For Peace (GFP) with support from the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF), Faisal and Nora engaged with children from makeshift tents in their village. They led sessions with passion and enthusiasm, facilitating sports activities overflowing with liveliness and joy. Most importantly, these activities were carefully designed to provide a safe space based on the approach of using Sport For Protection and Peace.

In an interview with Faisal and Nora, Faisal commenced his comments by recalling the fears he had prior to the experience: “In Al Mateen location 601, amidst the makeshift tents, we began implementing 10 sessions involving 20 children. Through the intensive training preceding these sessions, I learned how to use Sport as a tool for protection, mental health enhancement, and transcending conflicts. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of collaboration observed during the field implementation by both families and their children.” 

“To ensure the participation of as many children in the area, we visited their homes and communicated with their parents. We explained the programme’s goal, the activities it includes, and how the programme would positively impact their children. This helped us gain parents’ trust and reassurance,” says Nora. 

Nora and Faisal infused the activities with a unique flavour, engaging participants and making it difficult for children to depart at the end of each session. Nora says, “After the first session, everything seemed easier for Faisal and I. The synergy between participants was fantastic. They loved the idea of the programme; we gave them the space to express their feelings by the end of each session. They also said that they enjoy every moment, and they constantly message us, asking us to repeat the activities.” 

Faisal feels content whenever he sees the joy in their eyes. “I feel content whenever I see them channelling their energy into movement, sports, and positive activities. Today, whenever any of these children see me in a public place, they come to greet me. I take great pride in the positive impact I’ve had on their lives. 

In Al-Mafraq, a region deeply affected by displacement challenges in Jordan, primarily due to its proximity to conflict-affected borders, the Riadati programme serves as a vital initiative. Amidst a diverse and rapidly changing demographic, the programme functions as a bridge, building cohesion and transforming diversity into a positive element. It utilises sport as a powerful tool to nurture mentally resilient youth capable of navigating diverse circumstances, promoting unity and understanding, and instilling values of peace.

Throughout the three-year programme, GFP trains a group of volunteer facilitators from UNICEF-supported Makani Centre partners. Volunteers acquire the skills to utilise volleyball, basketball, and a diverse range of activities to improve the mental health and psychological well-being of those affected by displacement in both host communities and refugee camps. GFP adheres to the cascading model, in which it extends both theoretical and practical peacebuilding skills to their volunteers. It also paves the way for a continuous increase in the number of volunteers actively engaged in implementing GFP programmes in their local communities, to achieve sustainable peace on a global scale.

Commenting on the training approach of GFP, Faisal says, “Once you complete the training, your role as a recipient concludes, and you assume the role of the most capable evaluator, leveraging your understanding of your community and local culture. This is the guidance provided by our GFP trainer, Ahmad. The training not only equips us with new skills and knowledge but also grants us the confidence and autonomy to adapt and modify the activity schedule based on the children’s response. This adjustment has not only made facilitation more manageable but has also significantly contributed to the excellence of our sessions. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to re-experience and lead more sessions in the upcoming stages.” 

Nora wraps up her experience, stating, “Getting involved in sports didn’t just change others; it changed me too. I was told that I’m too young for volunteering, but I proved age doesn’t stop a person from making a difference. In fact, being young made the field activities with Faisal successful. I once believed I wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree in law. However, following my recent experiences, I am now considering completing a major in education at the university. This shift in perspective is driven by my genuine enjoyment of making a positive impact on children.”