“When in your life did you feel at your weakest?” our trainer asked.
“When my father died. There’s this saying, that the father is the rock, the strong tower and support of the family. I realized, that’s true.”
“Being and feeling foreign in a foreign land. You don’t belong. You feel lost.”
“When I saw my mother crying.”
“When I couldn’t help.”
“When I wasn’t able to catch up at school.”
These were some of the answers from the women.
During the last few months we have started to have small gatherings after our fitness classes to answer one deep question together and to share in one another’s joy and pain. The fitness trainers initiated the discussion times, and we were all surprised at how quickly the women poured out their hearts. They are honest with one another with tears often running down their faces. The women comfort and encourage each other.
“I need to go to the fitness classes, in order to have a place where I can really open up my heart and let go.” This is the feedback we often receive from the women.
During a recent session, one woman shared that she had been angry and upset at home. She felt stressed and she had been shouting at her kids. Her little boy eventually implored her: “Mom, please go to fitness! Every time when you return from fitness, you are nicer and less angry with us.” The woman started to laugh, and she told us: “That’s what’s happening in the classes. You get help for your body, your soul, and your mind.”
In the refugee camp setting in Northern Iraq, women are especially prone to physical inactivity, isolation, high stress, and depression. Women report spending most of their time within their small homes and tents. The women’s fitness project provides a safe, fun, accessible, and consistent place for women to release stress, build community, and increase overall wellness through group fitness classes.