Hello! Marhaba! Olá!
We are Kasandra Kachakji and Alice Young, and we are roommates, best friends, Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) majors at the University of California, Berkeley, world travelers, fresh fruit fanatics, road trippers, yogis, and all around amazing young women looking to create some serious change in the world.
Last year, Kasandra spent four months living and studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan. There, she discovered (and fell in love with) Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art form combining rhythmic moves from dance, acrobatics and martial arts to create a dialogue between two players - a beautiful, active conversation through movement. Developed by African slaves in Brazil as a form of both self-defense and self-expression, capoeira also provided a mental escape from the oppression the slaves faced by the Portuguese. A deeply collaborative game, capoeira has evolved into its own culture in the Middle East, bridging gaps between the borders of Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. It became the most positive force in her life, providing her with an amazing community in Amman and an outlet to express herself physically and creatively. When she returned, she felt inspired to apply for the Davis Project for Peace initiative to create a program that brought capoeira to the youth in Syrian refugee camps, so that they too could experience the mental and physical freedom this multi-faceted art form gives rise to.
In the last couple years of school and volunteer work, Alice has been studying how to create and implement sustainable solutions in under-resourced communities while still fostering local culture. Her passion for social justice, and interest in solving problems has given her direction, allowing her to keep taking steps forward instead of just stepping on her own feet. She traveled last semester through South America and worked on different projects that allowed her passion to become a reality. When Kasandra was chosen to receive the $10,000 grant to fund her Sport for Peace initiative, she asked Alice to partner with her on this project. Naturally, Alice said YES!
Seniors at UC Berkeley, we'll be graduating together in May and almost immediately heading off to Jordan to begin this project with everything we’ve got (literally)! We can’t wait for all of it to start, the “real” world is at our fingertips, and we need you to help us get there!
Youth refugees living in Jordan face an unknown future and an increasing sense of hopelessness as the Syrian war continues. Their education has been severely disrupted and with the trauma inflicted by the conflict and many young people now exhibit behaviors associated with extreme stress. We have identified capoeira as a useful tool to help youth cope, and in June we are going to Amman, Jordan to implement a Training of Trainers (ToT) program that will help to give an outlet to these youth and empower them to build emotional stability. We’ll be organizing and implementing a program that trains female capoeiristas, or players of capoeira, on how to effectively teach capoeira, its music and philosophy, as well as how to empower and interact with youth who have gone through trauma.
Currently, several male trainers travel 100 km (approx. 62 miles) from Amman to Azraq Refugee Camp to teach capoeira to youth. The majority of these youth are male; in order to empower young girls, these girls must be given the same opportunities to focus their energies and frustrations. Cultural norms form a barrier between young girls and male trainers, so female trainers are needed as teachers and sources of inspiration.
We’ll be hosting weekly trainings for women in Amman, Jordan, which will include advanced capoeira, how to teach capoeira basics, music, leadership, communication and soft skill building. We’ll have a guest capoeira trainer to enhance the trainings; trainees will teach community classes to build their teaching skills, and use horizontal learning techniques to help each other learn and grow collaboratively.
This project bridges the gap between Jordanians in Amman and Syrian refugees in Azraq. The young girls in Azraq are keen to learn capoeira: they’re intrigued by the music, the instruments, the movements, but are shy around the male trainers. Due to cultural norms, these young girls are more inclined towards and comfortable with a female trainer. They want role models, someone to show them that they too, as girls can play the instruments, sing the songs, do the movements, just like the boys do. As these girls grow in their confidence, they will also bond and connect with their trainers, who will enable them to become trainers and leaders themselves, if they wish. This creates a cycle of positivity, leadership, and development amongst Syrian refugee girls, as well as an environment of equality as the boys and girls learn to play capoeira together.
The skills they take from capoeira will benefit them for the rest of their lives: they will build inner strength, confidence and resilience as they step into the roda, or circle, to play in front of their peers; they will take back their childhood through playfulness and using their imaginations as they play, while also maintaining their physical well being. This project will promote tolerance: everyone enters a roda and plays together as equals, regardless of gender, race, age, or religion. Through this, the youth will build friendships with each other and with Jordanians, empowering the two communities and changing the way they face their situations together.
During our time in Amman we will be providing weekly video blog updates of the training program because we want you to be included in our process. These updates will give an inside look at the program subtleties, our progress, and allow you to get to know everyone involved on a more personal level.
Why We're Kickstarting:
We have a $10,000 start-up grant that Kasandra received through Davis Projects for Peace, and this is a wonderful start. In order to:
- Bring on five trainees,
- Provide instruments, equipment and athletic clothing,
- Conduct weekly trainings and
- Bring an experienced Capoeirista to enrich the training,
we must use the majority of the grant. However, to make all of this happen WE need to get to Jordan, pay for own lodging, and feed ourselves, and as college seniors graduating in May, we don’t have the resources to make all of this happen, while still fully giving to the program. In addition, we also want to create a sustainable program that lives on after the initial three months that the grant provides for, and that is why we are launching this fundraising campaign of another $10,000 to match the grant!
How Will the Money Be Used?
- Travel (Airfare, Cabfare, Visas, Insurance)
- Lodging (For us, for a trainer)
- Communications (Cell Phone Service/Internet)
- Equipment (Electronic, Musical, Clothing/shoes)
- Shipping Fees (For Instruments, Clothing/Shoe Donations, Rewards)
Risks and challenges
Potential risks we may face include security and lack of community support. The solutions include having local trainers who can adapt to changing security contexts, to have organizational security policies in place, and to build relationships with community stakeholders through workshops and community classes.
We intend to make all of these things happen, and because there is a link for capoeira teachers in the Azraq Refugee Camp through the nonprofit Bidna Capoeira, we have an existing rapport within the community, as well as a foundation to ensure safety and accountability.
- (48 days)