Twice a week groups of 15-25 men cram into small rooms at local community centres that Operation Mercy partners with. After a 30-minute focused group discussion, the men get down on the floor, side by side, and the coach leads them through a challenging but fun workout of push ups, sit-ups, squats and many other exercises. By the end of the session everyone is dripping in sweat and clapping and congratulating one another for pushing themselves.
Mohammed is in his 60s and is from Syria. Because of his age it is very difficult for him to find work to support his family, which includes his wife, children, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. However, Keystone has helped him to feel physically stronger, to have a more positive outlook on his life and to find ways to support his wife at home.
Arkan is from Baghdad and he’s here with his wife and children, as well as his father and two brothers with cognitive disabilities. His father can’t come to Keystone because he’s unable to leave Arkan’s two brothers alone. So, when Arkan goes home after Keystone he does the exercises with his Dad.
Aysam had a stroke, so his speech and mobility are limited, but he joins in with everyone for the discussion time and the exercises. He may fall down many times, but he picks himself up and keeps trying to master the exercise.
During the focused group discussion time, the coach facilitates the men to find ways to address their problems. On one occasion, Bashar was having trouble because his daughters were being harassed by boys on the walk home from school. So, the men in the Keystone group took turns to stand on the street when schools got out to tell off any boys that would attempt to harass Bashar's daughters.
Through this time of group discussions and exercise, these men are getting out of house, they are discussing how to become better men and they are discovering solutions to their problems as a group. Together these men are burning off the stress which comes from their circumstances, they are getting healthier and stronger, and they are bonding together.