Katie Chapman, former England international and Captain of Chelsea Football Club Women’s team and now Chelsea Ambassador, together with the Chelsea Foundation coaches, joined our global charity partner Plan International at the Azraq refugee camp on the Jordan, Syrian border last week.
The group received special access to the Azraq Refugee Camp in the desert outside Amman, which homes more than 35,000 Syrian refugees, to deliver unforgettable sessions to groups of boys and girls aged from 10 to 17.
Over the three days visiting the camp, Chapman and the Chelsea Foundation coaches ran 10 sessions for Syrian children, whose families have fled their homeland since the conflict there began in 2011.
The camp is split into villages, encouraging a community spirit between people. Much of Plan International’s work, and where the coaching sessions here have taken place were in Village 5, a closed camp within the bigger Azraq site.
The 9,000 refugees within Village 5 are housed here as they fled ISIS stronghold areas in Syria. They cannot move freely in and out of the camp, with the area surrounded by high fences. Unlike other areas of Azraq, which opened in 2014, it has only just received electricity to the temporary homes. It means that the camp now has power, they can have a life after the sun goes down and have a small sense of normality.
As well as the coaching sessions, Chapman and the Foundation staff met with mothers and their babies, one just 15 days old, attending an early childhood care and development centre, implemented by Plan.
Chapman also visited Village 6, to meet a family at their shelter, and heard the story of how they fled Syria to come to Jordan.
Chapman said: ‘To visit the family and their shelter was unbelievable. They have made it so homely from such limited resources, and their story, with six children trying to cross a border with the danger of bombs and snipers, people taking money off them as they try to escape, all while being hungry and thirsty, trying to find somewhere safe, was just incredible. I had tears in my eyes as we listened.
‘It was a heart-breaking story, but with joy at the end. The refugee camp is not amazing but it gives these families, these children a future, and it gives them a life. It’s what a family should be like, it strips away all the technology and the rubbish that we have and take for granted.
‘They are a real family, they spend their days together, they eat together. They have no choice but they are making the very most of it, and they have created a home.’
As part of Chelsea’s partnership with global children’s charity Plan International, football is used to break barriers, challenge attitudes and to bring communities together.
Chapman reflected: ‘I am so grateful to the Chelsea Foundation and Plan International for giving me the opportunity. I really hope to be able to do more and learn more on similar trips and visits in the future.
‘Without Plan International and the other charities that are working at Azraq, these people would have nothing – no education, no nurseries, no football facilities or even footballs. It’s so important. It gives these people hope when they have nothing and nowhere else to go.’