Using sports to cope with displacement: Randa’s story

“I feel stronger and more confident, I love it when I hear people clap for me,”

Basma Ourfali
A girl doing gymnastics
UNICEF/Syria 2019/Khudr Al-Issa

07 April 2019

Despite the noise of children in the sports hall, 11-year-old Randa was not aware of the world around her. With her arms stretched wide and her eyes focused, she walked on the balance beam as younger girls watched her intently.

Randa began pursuing her passion for gymnastics last year, when she joined the UNICEF-supported sports for development programme.

When Randa was 3, her family was forced to flee their home in northern rural Aleppo as violence escalated and settled in the city where they lived in a tiny house.

“I remember watching videos of talented gymnasts when I was little and wanting to be like them,”

Randa

Since the beginning of 2018, Randa joined a UNICEF-supported life skills course where she expressed her love for athletics. She was later referred to the sports programme and attended 12 sessions on basic gymnastics and is already competing in local tournaments.

“Although she started gymnastics later than most children would in other circumstances, she has shown immense talent and determination,”

Husam, Randa’s trainer

Besides her talent, Randa makes it a point to train for several hours daily. Although her house is very small, her siblings stay completely still to give her enough room to practice.

“When I first started, it was very painful especially when I did splits,” adds Randa. “I cried a lot but did not give up because I believed I could do it.”

Gymnastics has had a positive impact on Randa’s life since she started.

“I feel stronger and more confident, I love it when I hear people clap for me,”

Randa

“I was worried that long hours of gymnastics would affect her education, but she has actually become a better student since joining the programme,” says Randa’s father.

The sports for development programme helps youth promote a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing, while enhancing their skills and including the excluded. In 2018, thanks to Germany, Japan, Finland, Canada and Luxembourg, more than 40,000 youth and adolescents benefited from the programme across Syria.

A girl doing gymnastics
UNICEF/Syria 2019/Khudr Al-Issa