Cricket has had an amazing impact in the Shatila Refugee camp through Capital Kids Cricket’s work and Basmeh & Zeitooneh’s initiative.
The children and the staff are saddened as the five-day long cricket camp has come to an end with a festival.
“It was priceless for me and my team to work at Shatila refugee camp with the Children past 5 days. I wish we can stay longer and give them more smiles” mentioned by Shahidul Alam Ratan who lead the 2 other volunteers to introduce cricket in Lebanon.
A British-based charity is coaching cricket to hundreds of boys and girls in the overcrowded Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
In an unprecedented initiative, three volunteer coaches from UK began working with the children on Monday at the sprawling camp in the south of the Lebanese capital Beirut in a bid to help youngsters enjoy playing a sport and build a team spirit.
Capital Kids Cricket, (CKC) the London charity which has introduced more than 200,000 children at state schools to cricket during the last 30-years, was invited to Shatila by a local charity supporting the camp.
Shatila was set-up for Palestinian refugees in 1949 and has remained part of southern Beirut ever since. It was the scene of an infamous massacre in 1982 when up to 3,000 people died. Its official population of nearly 10,000 has been swelled to over 25,000 in recent years by refugees fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria. There is a desperate need to provide activities for children effectively trapped with little to do.
Thousands of the refugees are children and the vast majority will have known nothing about cricket until Monday but CKC believes the introduction of the sport can make a significant difference to their lives by helping them have ‘fun’ and putting ‘a smile’ on faces despite their bleak surroundings.
Chairman Haydn Turner said : ‘CKC has a unique experience of providing sport to deprived and disabled boys and girls in London. The opportunity to bring this expertise to some of the most deprived children on earth is huge exciting challenge.
‘Our hope is that involving local teachers and providing kit we can leave a legacy of sport instead of war.
‘Sport and particularly cricket is played by children in deprived areas of the world as illustrated by its success in Afghanistan.
‘Thousands of kids are trapped in Shatila, they deserve a chance to have fun and enjoy the most non- violent of team games.’
He added : ‘If we can bring a smile to their faces and give them something to look forward to while building a sense of friendship and teamwork then perhaps there will be a lasting legacy of cricket in Shatila which we would be proud to help develop.’
CKC, which is based in East London and works with more than 250 schools and communities in the capital and neighbouring counties, is working in the camp in partnership with Basmeh & Zeitooneh, a charity launched six years ago to help the estimated one million refugees who have fled into Lebanon from Syria.
Basmeh & Zeitooneh was launched in September 2012 with field visits to areas with high concentrations of the most marginalized and desperate Syrian refugees. The main goal of these visits was to assess needs and find gaps left by other aid agencies where help could be provided.
In Arabic “basmeh,” means smile and “zeitooneh,” means olive, a symbol of peace and nourishment.
CKC, which is well known for introducing cricket to very young people across London through school cricket programmes, said it hopes cricket can be a useful tool to give the young people something new to try and enjoy. It is providing kit and coaching – teachers who will continue after CKC leaves are being trained – for hundreds of children.
The three volunteer coaches, who will be at the camp until Friday, are Shahidul Alam Ratan, CEO of CKC, Kanan Thiyagarajah, himself a refugee back from war affected Sri Lanka ,and CKC Trustee Helena Eccles, who played cricket for Warwickshire.
The first day working with the children in Shatila had a major impact on the CKC coaches, who were delighted by the response to cricket of all those who picked up a cricket bat and ball for the first time.
Ratan, also said it was the ‘best decision’ he had taken in 25 years as a coach to travel to southern Beirut and lead the pioneering scheme taking cricket to thousands of deprived refugee children.
‘It has been rewarding to see the excitement and smiles of the children as they have taken to their first experiences of cricket,’ he said, ‘Everyone has been very positive and there is great energy to establish cricket here and, if successful, expand it.’
He said adults had been keen to join in to after watching over 100 children, aged 8-13, take part along with eight members of Shatila’s support teams.
‘This is a very exciting development and shows both the power and reach of cricket,’ he continued, ‘It can be heart breaking to hear some of the stories and witness the reality of life in the camps with so many who have escaped the horrors of Syria.
‘It underlines the need to develop on what has been a good start here – cricket can change life and I hope we will have the support and resources to continue to work here in the coming years.’
Today the camp finished with a KWIK Cricket festival. 9 team took part in day long festival. H. E. Abdul Motaleb Sarker the Ambassador of Bangladesh inaugurated the festival. H.E expressed his support and said the Bangladesh mission in Lebanon will work with Basmeh & Zeitooneh to assist continue cricket for these children.
Basmeh & Zeitooneh was launched in September 2012 with field visits to areas with high concentrations of the most marginalized and desperate Syrian refugees. The main goal of these visits was to assess needs and find gaps left by other aid agencies. Basmeh & Zeitooneh’s volunteers make frequent field visits and foster a relationship of trust etc. In Arabic “basmeh,” means smile and “zeitooneh,” means olive, a symbol of peace and nourishment. We hope cricket can be a useful tool to give the young people something new to try and enjoy.
Capital Kids Cricket is well known to introduce cricket to very young people across London through school cricket programmes from very young age. CKC hope this might be the beginning of cricket in the school and the community surrounding Shatila camp. Three personal volunteering are Shahidul Alam Ratan a Level 3 coach, coach Educator also CEO of CKC, Kanan Thiyagarajah a level 2 coach who himself came to England as refugee back in 1995 from war affected Sri Lanka and CKC Trustee Helena Eccles a consultant at McKinsey who also played cricket at highest level in Warwickshire county cricket club.
Find more about Basmeh & Zeitooneh in the links below: