In January and February 2020, before Covid-19 came along and all of Operation Mercy’s programming in the refugee camps was shut down to prevent the spread of the virus, Khalida* was an irregular participant in our fitness classes.
Following government shut-downs due to the pandemic, none of the women were able to meet in person to exercise for about eight months. However, during this time the WhatsApp group they were invited to was not dormant. The Operation Mercy fitness instructors regularly sent out encouragement, and women stayed connected with each other through the messaging group. For Khalida, this virtual group provided an opportunity to deepen her relationships with some of the other ladies.
Today she is a regular attendee of our classes and happy to share how much the programme and the community she has found through it have changed her. This change is not just physical, though she did lose weight; it goes beyond that to a change in her outlook on life and her relationships.
Khalida’s husband divorced her nine years ago, right after the birth of her daughter. Living by herself in a communal society, Khalida had become withdrawn and isolated from the people around her. Through the encouragement she received from the fitness group leaders and the other women, she has felt an improvement in her emotional health and has become more social and connected with others. Over the past year, she has formed a close friendship with one of the other participants.
Now, Khalida says that she has a more positive attitude towards life and even her own daughter because of the women’s fitness project and her new friends.
* Name changed