Promoting Healthy, Nurturing Habits in Northeast Syria Camps

In northeast Syria’s displacement camps, engaging activities are empowering residents to be healthy, form good habits, and prioritize their well-being.

The Shelter and Food Emergency Response (SAFER) program, funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, organizes these activities to help residents adjust to life in a displacement camp and build a sense of belonging. In October 2023, more than 12,300 camp residents participated in community activities, including sports, awareness sessions, and skill-building courses.

Sports and aerobics classes have been a new opportunity to form healthy habits, especially for women. Women living in the displacement camps have faced unimaginable challenges. The classes are a way for them to exercise and create goals for themselves.

women in an exercise class

Women can attend aerobics classes as part of the many community activities Blumont hosts at displacement camps in northeast Syria.

In one camp, women have formed a tight-knit community, supporting one another through a WhatsApp group and organizing evening walks. Together, they are building connections, self-worth, and healthy habits.

For children, the focus is on creating a nurturing environment to learn, play, and grow. Often, children living in displacement turn away from school and play because of familial responsibility or a lack of encouragement. The SAFER team organizes fun, competitive, and educational activities for children of all ages. A chess competition has been a catalyst for personal growth and empowerment, while a running club encourages children to strive for greatness and be healthy.

All activities are an opportunity for residents to find a sense of normalcy amidst displacement.

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Moving from Fear to Confidence Through Aerobics

Jihan’s journey in an aerobics class epitomizes the transformation from fear to confidence. “It wasn’t easy at first, but with an experienced team, we gained confidence and eliminated fears,” she shared. Jihan’s commitment to the classes not only enhanced her physical fitness but also inspired her family to join the sports activities. She’s fostering a culture of health and wellness within her household.


Finding a Path to Success

Jamila, a young chess hobbyist, took first place in the chess competition. Her win was not only a personal triumph, but also a testament to how the game can have a broader impact on life. “I am very happy. My self-confidence soared after attending the training, and it soared even higher after securing the first position,” she said. “Winning a chessboard as a prize motivates me to intensify my practice, learning, and participation in future competitions.”


Self-Healing in Exercise Class

Fidan, who has faced war and the loss of her husband, found solace and rejuvenation through SAFER’s aerobics classes. For Fidan, aerobics became more than exercise–it became a therapeutic escape from the trauma that haunted her. “My desire to practice aerobics is to entertain myself; I see this sport as an outlet to get rid of all the negative feelings that I suffer from as a result of my difficult family circumstances,” she expressed. Fidan not only improved her physical fitness, but also inspired her family members to embrace a healthier lifestyle.


Inspiring Her Community to be Healthy

Amal, a young woman grappling with a spine condition, found strength and purpose through the SAFER program. In the past, she had felt discouraged from participating in sports while living in the camp. The team motivated Amal to work past her physical limitations by inviting her to join aerobics classes. With support, she became an aerobics coach herself. Now, she guides over 40 women, sharing her journey of resilience and encouraging them to lead healthier lives.


Reclaiming Childhood in Displacement

Naif is a displaced teenager who cares for his paralyzed father. He often coped by smoking, a habit that  threatened his future health. The SAFER team introduced him to new activities and encouraged him to build healthier routines. Soon, he was on a path to enjoy his childhood. “I feel like a brave child after giving up the bad smoking habit that had plagued me for years. I just recently became aware of its dangers after attending awareness sessions,” Naif shared. He won first place in a running competition and his chess skills are shining brightly Today, he aspires for a better future.