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Dream building with refugees through table tennis

Copyrights: ITTF Foundation

Dream building with refugees through table tennis

The ITTF Foundation shares details about the project which promotes positive change within the Syrian Refugee community in Za’atari.

Za’atari is a refugee camp located in the desert of the northern part of Jordan. Since the opening of the refugee camp in July 2012 it has become the fourth largest “city” in Jordan. Za’atari is made up of shelters, administration buildings, some hospitals, schools and a market-like structure. For around 80,000 persons, more than half of which are under 18, this has become their reality and their life at home is mere memory.

The hopes of a fast return to their homes in Syria are undefined. They may be safe from war, but they can’t leave the camp without permission. Their future is uncertain, not all children attend school, as many parents don’t see the necessity and believe they will soon return home, where the ongoing conflicts will have destroyed their economic and social life. Camp life is tough, and many depend on the support of others. The memories of traumatic experiences in the past, fear about an uncertain future and boredom are only some of the emotions that can be found among the inhabitants.

Sport in this scenario can be a powerful tool to help. Many NGOs know about the power of sport within Za’atari, but the expertise of qualified trainers are often missing. The ITTF Foundation developed a two-year project called “Nittaku Dream Building with Refugees”. This project is implemented in partnership with Peace and Sport and incorporated within the “Live Together” programme led by Peace and Sport in Za’atari.

The project aims are two-fold: the main aim being the promotion of positive individual and social change within the Syrian Refugee community in Za’atari. The second objective sees more long-term, with the aim to increase cooperation and strengthen social cohesion between Syrian refugees and the Jordanian people.

What has been done so far?

The project was officially launched on World Table Tennis Day, 6 April 2018, although table tennis had arrived much earlier to the camp. In 2017, several site visits were made to understand and evaluate the situation, search for local partners (NGOs) and train the first trainers.

Today, more than 146 boys and girls are attending training sessions, where they not only learn table tennis, but work also on values and how to deal with aggressions – a common problem within the camp.

However, the Dream Building with Refugees project is not only about refugees, it is also about increasing and strengthening social cohesion between Syrian refugees and Jordanian people. Contact with the closest Jordanian table tennis club in Mafraq, only 10 km from Za’atari, have been made. Here, Syrian project trainers get the possibility to exchange knowledge and best practices and Jordan trainers and player get in contact with Syrian ones. To date, one of the highlights of the project was in July, when a delegation composed of two trainers and seven children from the camp went to the 2018 Jordan Junior and Cadet Open in Amman. They watched the tournament, talked to umpires and competition managers and learnt a lot about the organisation of high-level tournaments. Playing in the competition area, watching high level matches and getting in contact with close neighbours they are normally not allowed to visit, was a memorable moment for all involved and only one step on the way to a peaceful togetherness and hope.

The ITTF Foundation

Established in 2018, the ITTF Foundation is the social responsibility arm of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). Its primarily aim is to promote the use of table tennis for development and peace, following the rich culture of humanitarian projects implemented under the umbrella of ITTF Development since the beginning of the millennium.

Under the motto “Solidarity through Table Tennis”, the ITTF Foundation is working currently on five programmes, Dream Building one of them.


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Wiebke Scheffler, ITTF Foundation


Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 09:01

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