Fun, Games and a Thirst for Change

Yara Mehiar ’17 is a public health major from Jordan. She completed her internship at Reclaim Childhood (RC), a non-profit organization based in Amman, the capital of her home country. During her internship, Mehiar worked to improve the health and quality of life of refugees in Jordan through a daily summer camp focused on recreational sports.

RC has three objectives: to provide a safe space for campers to have fun; to connect community members who might not otherwise interact and to use recreational sports to empower young women. “Getting exercise and playing sports are vital for girls in general, and refugee girls in particular,” said Mehiar. RC uses athletics as a window into discussions about mental and physical health, teamwork and gender equality.

Jordan has one of the highest number of refugees per capita in the world – 30 percent of their population, according to a 2015 census. Many of these refugees are young women and girls who are especially vulnerable to the dangers and instability refugees face. “As a woman from the Middle East, I have a thirst for change, equal opportunity and stability,” said Mehiar. Isolation, family separation, racism and mental health are just a few of the struggles refugees must navigate. Mehiar is passionate about using her public health degree to improve the overall mental and physical well-being of the refugee population.

Mehiar organized the camp before it started. “A typical day consisted of doing research, writing grants, assisting with fundraising, completing inventory work and recruiting volunteers,” she said. Once the camp began, she facilitated various activities. “Most campers had never played sports before,” she said. “When I asked how they felt while playing sports, overwhelmingly they replied ‘happy.’” She was able to befriend and be a positive role model to female refugees from Syria, Iraq and Palestine as well as at-risk Jordanians.

“The more I talked and interacted with the girls, the more I learned about the difficult lives they lead and the traumatic experiences they have been through,” said Mehiar. “I felt honored to share occasional moments of joy and tenderness with them as they struggled to maintain hope in the face of this terrible crisis.”

Mehiar’s thirst for change is far from satisfied. “I will be researching the benefits of sports and art therapy with refugee children for my senior Capstone project,” she said. “I couldn’t have found a better way to develop knowledge that is helpful for my research while gaining the skills required to work in this sector than interning with Reclaim Childhood this summer.”