Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Iraq: Iraqi refugee children find joy in 'Capoeira therapy'

AL-TANF REFUGEE CAMP, Syria - The closure in February of the Al-Tanf refugee camp on the Syrian-Iraqi border ends one of the most painful chapters in the post-war story of Iraqs refugee community.

Commonly referred to as a no-mans land, Al-Tanf has, since 2006, housed some 850 Palestinian refugees who had fled sectarian strife in Iraq. Many of them were children.

As a place for children, it was totally barren, just stones, said UNICEF Representative in Syria Sherazade Boualia.

UNICEF and its partner CapoeirArab, a sports association, stepped into the void, teaching Capoeira, a Brazilian-based blend of dance, music and self-defense. After 20 weekly sessions, families in the camp began to see a marked improvement in their childrens mood.

Capoeira is a joyful thing and it is fun, said Hananan, a mother from Al-Tanf. It really changed the mentality of the children and even us.

The introduction of Capoeira in the camp promoted physical activity and contributed to psychological stabilization.

Capoeira was central to the dynamic of the camp and was important to the morale of the people there, said Ms. Boualia. Though Al-Tanf has now closed, other problems remain, and Capoeira will likely play a part in alleviating the boredom of refugee children in the future.

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