Our Changemakers

- Changemakers Programme - 

We believe that music, sport & play are extremely powerful tools to inspire individuals, bring communities together, and ultimately change the world. Our programs are specifically designed to help young people deal with the impacts of conflict, as well as build life skills and better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.

We cannot do this alone and we know that our work cannot continue unless we send the lift back down. This is why we are very excited to announce the winners of our Changemakers Programme, an initiative designed to train up the next generation of Capoeiristas who are active in 'using Capoeira' and have a track records in supporting vulnerable children and youth affected by the Syrian crises or who are working with Palestinian refugees. We have an exceptional group of partners and supporters like the Idrots Stiftelsen that are invested in building a global community to reach as many children as possible through music, sport & play.

The Capoeira Changemakers Programme is an alternative education initiative that aims to reinforce local and civic leadership by investing in local trainers as 'Changemakers' within their own communities. Through the programme, Capoeira4Refugees aims to support fellows with mentoring, training, and stipends so they can continue and expand on their own social Capoeira projects. Trainers magnify the impact of Capoeira and create long-term change through developng sustainable social Capoeira projects that mentor talent and improve pyschosocial wellbeing of young prople in their communities.

In Celebration of the launch of our Changemakers Programme, we will be featuring our winners & sharing their stories. #I Am A Changemaker

Amer knows firsthand the positive impact that music, sport and play can have on young people.
# I Am A Changemaker

In Istanbul, Amer promotes intergration and tolerance between Syrian, Iraqi, Kurdish and Egyptian refugees and Turkish children who take part in his workshops.

Since fighting began in 2011, 6.5 million people have been displaced within Syria. Four years ago, 28-year-old Capoeira Changemaker, Amer was forced to flee his home in Syria and became a displaced person in his own country. 

He ended up in a town where children had little access to basic rights like education or play-based activities. In the midst of these challenges, Amer saw an opportunity to do something to support the children. By converting a school into a space to teach Capoeira, he hoped to positively help young people deal with the impacts of war and the resultant physical, mental & social issues that were impacting their daily lives. Despite the risks involved, Amer saw that Capoeira allowed his students to channel anger and frustration in a safe and healthy way.

“I was an invisible man. ISIS were everywhere so we took hidden roads. There was bombing every day but we saw the kids needed it to stay strong"

In 2014, when the situation worsened, Amer left Syria for Gaziantep, Turkey, where he conducted a Capoeira4Refugees training workshop. He also trained others to make positive social change in their own communities, reaching more and more youth impacted by war. 

Amer now lives in Istanbul where he is passionately promoting Capoeira. 

"Together with my brother, who was also a Capoeira trainer in Syria, we are making huge progress in a very short time-frame. We have collaborated with NGOs that work with Syrian and Romani refugees in Istanbul's schools and community centres, and they want to work with us..."

Due to the success of his work, numerous NGO's have reached out to him about starting workshops for the substantial Syrian refugee population in Istanbul. For example, Small Projects Istanbul has called upon Amer to lead a Capoeira summer camp program for Syrian refugees.

Despite limited resources, such as space, number of trainers, time and financial support, Amer has big ambitions for his project, with a particular focus on reaching the undeserved girls and women in his community. He is also making progress on securing larger venues for workshops. Despite the need for greater support, Amer is confident in his projects in Istanbul and recognises the huge potential and demand by Syrian and Romani refugees for Capoeira workshops.

Amer knows firsthand the positive impact music, sport & play can have on young people. Amer hopes to use this programme to inspire others so that they might one day be changemakers. Capoeira4Refugees is proud to support Amer and his initiatives in Istanbul. 

"Capoeira is perfect for children. It allows them a safe space to laugh, sing, exercise and have fun, helping them deal with the trauma of their experiences and of being a refugee."
- Amer

Abed has a rich experience working in refugee camps and underserved communities.
#I Am A Changemaker

Despite conflict in Palestine, Abed defies the odds to find space for music, sport & play.

The political situation in Palestine means that many young people have unequal opportunities to an education. Unicef recently reported that nearly one in four children growing up in conflict zones around the world are out of school. Children who lack accesses to formal education opportunities have even less access to sports and extra-curricular activities. In light of these challenges, Abed decided to do something to support youth in his community.

Abed's social capoeira project started in May of 2014 when he was still working with Bidna Capoeira (now Capoeira4Refugees) in Bethany. Residents of Bethany, one of the three Israeli-controlled administrative divisions in the West Bank, receive limited access to basic services. With support from a few donors, Abed started teaching capoeira to fill in the gap. Although funding for the project through Bidna Capoeira ended in August of 2015, Abed continues to devote his personal time and resources to keep the group going.

Working in Bethany has not been easy. According to a UN report, nearly 300,000 Palestinians are living in the area, and tensions have been high since last autumn due to disputes over access and land. As a result, Palestinian children lack a safe space to play. "A lot of the time, no space is available, so we train in the street or on my house rooftop, " he says. Despite these challenges, Abed continues to fight to get a more permanent space for his students to practice capoeira.

"Capoeira has helped children deal with the ongoing conflict, and this keeps him going. “In my opinion, Capoeira is perfect for the kids in marginalized communities in Palestine,” he says. “It’s a group activity, which teaches them many life skills and values, including how to resolve conflict and accept differences.”

Abed also constantly strives to promote gender inclusivity in his classes. In the past, he has taught many girls classes in some of the most conservative areas in Palestine (such as Sur Baher Village, Bethany Girls Orphanage, and Shufat Refugee Camp). He is one of few male trainers allowed to work with girls, having earned the trust of many families. Abed has made it his personal mission to promote gender equality through music, sport and play, and is planning to run another girls class in Shufat Refugee Camp.

For Abed, becoming a Capoeira Changemakers Fellow means being able to offer the children and youth continuous access to activities that they otherwise would not have access to. “I’m excited to use the programme to get my projects back up and running and to see the local children completely engaged in Capoeira, games and activities that teach peace, conflict resolution, self-esteem and more.”

"Capoeira is perfect for the kids in marginalized communities in Palestine. It's a group activity, which teaches them many life skills and values, including how to resolve conflict and accept differences" 
- Abed

    Despite the turmoil in the Middle East, Naya is determined to keep her project going. When the conflict ends, she hopes to use it to re-build her country.

Naya Is keeping music, sport & play alive for children in the face of war!

As the civil war in her home country enters its sixth year, UNOCHA recently reported that more than half of the population have fled, and life expectancy has fallen by twenty years. Despite these challenging situations,  Naya continues to teach Capoeira in her community in hopes of helping children overcome the traumas of war.

With a degree from the High Institute of Dramatic Arts, Naya has always been very involved in drama, theatre and movement. Naya sees Capoeira as more than a sport, but a philosophy. She believes her role is to share this philosophy with others, for example on the complexities of human dialogue, the importance of being prepared, and the power of indirect resistance, to help them overcome the traumas of the war.

The 25 year old has the means to leave the country in the grips of conflict, which the UN backed report says has claimed an estimated 250,000 lives. However, she chose to remain in the country for the children. The Changemakers Programme will assist her in reaching her goals to work with conflict-impacted children and youth.

“The award will help me support woman from Syria! Instead of focusing on my problems and on the war, I focus on improving my Capoeira skills and how to transfer these skills to children, especially to girls because it builds their confidence.”

Despite the turmoil, Naya is determined to keep her project going. When the conflict in Syria ends, she hopes to use it as a tool to re-build her country.

“Capoeira is the best tool to help people get through the hard times. I love teaching...It's why I’m holding on. My dream is to build a safe space for children…I’m working on it!”

In partnership with Idrotts Stiftelse, Capoeira4Refugees is proud to support Naya in helping her to achieve these goals.

"Capoeira has colourful soul. It is not just a sport but it is a culture full of life. It helps me escape and enter a new world"