Permission To Be Strong
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
As I set out for my trip to Egypt and Jordan, I was ready to inspire, empower and spread some joy.
The purpose of the trip was to follow up with some of the emerging women leaders who had participated in the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) and observe how they are using sport as a vehicle for positive change in their communities. GSMP is the flagship component of the Empowering Women & Girls through Sports Initiative, which pairs emerging women leaders from around the world with top American female executives in the sports industry. My role as a sports envoy was to perform soccer and strength clinics to women and young girls in the underprivileged communities and at Syrian refugee camps in Jordan.
Three of the GSMP emerging leaders with whom we had the privilege of working and interacting were Hayam Essam, founder of Girl Power Egypt, an initiative to inspire young females through basketball; Dima Alardah, founder of Shuttlers Badminton Academy Jordan, the first such academy in her country to make the sport more accessible to everyone and improve health throughout the community; and Batoul Arnaout, also from Jordan, who is an avid cyclist and the director of BOOST (Better Options & Opportunities for Sport Today), which aims to enhance the visibility of sports in Jordan.
Going against societal norms, these three women have ventured into new territory through sport and empowerment. They each left secure, high-level jobs to pursue their passion. Hayam, Dima and Batoul are giving girls permission to be strong as they embody empowerment in a society where girls and sport don’t usually mix. In doing so, they have flourished under adversity and are spreading visions of strength to girls throughout their communities.
We also had the rare opportunity of visiting two Syrian Refugee Camps with Dima – stepping into a world that many will never witness. I was humbled by the stark environment in which the refugees live. Small 8’ x 8’ room-like houses surrounded by barbed wire make up the dire conditions of these people’s habitation. They yearn for home, and they yearn for hope. That’s why it was such an honor to conduct soccer & strength clinics for 100+ young girls and women, providing them with an hour of relief from their unfortunate reality. This was true for one young girl in particular with whom I connected … she had such a bright light about her. The energy she exuded, laughing and juggling with me, and showing off her skill reminded me of how I was when I first started playing.
I’ve been so fortunate to have such opportunities to travel the world playing soccer, but never before have I felt the power of sport as I did on this trip. It was a gift to experience the pure joy that each of the girls and women felt as they were allowed to feel a sense of freedom and joy while playing soccer. Even in my days of playing at the highest level, I never experienced the gift of giving back as I did during this trip. As time passed, I realized I was the one who was being inspired and filled with joy. Yes, I was bringing happiness to others, but the exchange was mutual and a gift for everyone involved.
Sport has provided me with many amazing experiences and given me permission to be strong throughout my life. It is apparent that Hayam, Batoul and Dima are also integrating these concepts into their professional and personal lives. And, after all, isn’t that what sport is all about?
*All photos courtesy of Allison Davis Photography.
To see more photos from the trip – check out my Instagram page: lorilindsey6