“It is so important to share these messages with the children in Syria. When we finally go back home, all us coaches will keep teaching these messages in our villages. This is really important to us.”
When Spirit of Soccer first visited Zaatari Refugee Camp in Northern Jordan looking for volunteers to teach Mine Risk Education through football to Syrian children living on the camp, Bassam Talib was one of the first to sign up.
Having fled the Syrian conflict and now living with his wife and three young sons at Zaatari, Bassam knew that sport could be a powerful way to bring some sense of normalcy and hope to the hundreds of thousands living in terrible conditions.
With three children of his own, Bassam knew how important it was for kids to be made aware of the risks of ERW when they finally returned home. Along with four other Syrian coaches, Bassam graduated from the Spirit of Soccer training course in February 2013 and began work as a mine risk educator and soccer coach.
“Working with Spirit of Soccer I have gained a lot of experience personally, as it is very different to my job in Syria,” says Bassam. “The activities leave a huge impression on the kids, because they all love football. Afterwards, we hand out posters and school notebooks that have photos of famous football players carrying safe behavior messages. The kids look at these every day and so are reminded of our message.”
According to Bassam, although other organizations visit the camp from time to time to distribute flyers or give a class, they are quickly forgotten. “We five coaches live alongside the children here in the camp, so the mine risk education messages we give them aren’t easily forgotten. Everywhere I go in the camp, they recognize me as the ‘landmine teacher’” he said.
His experience working with the program has opened up other doors for Bassam. Now a respected and recognized figure in the refugee camp community, he has been called on to establish other sports groups and activities within the camp for both youth and adults.