Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine
#BarakabilityClassroom 2.0Education

Playing to Represent, Learning to Thrive

This girl is smiling because she’s learning to play football. She is one of 5,000 girls and an equal number of boys who have found new opportunities through sports thanks to PACES.

The NGO brings kids aged 7 – 16 from the margins of remote and underprivileged communities to the disciplined, enthusiastic ranks of basketball, football and volleyball teams. PACES coaches are also local youth, who get basic first aid training, leadership skills and—crucially in areas of high unemployment—rewarding jobs.

Founded in 2006 initially for children in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem, PACES now has programs across Palestine and in the refugee camps of Jordan and Lebanon. Each year, teams travel to compete in places they never dreamed they’d see. At international play-offs after the under-14 boys’ and under-16 girls’ teams came in second in 2009 and 2010 respectively, in Norway in 2011 the under-14 boys took first place and the under-16 boys, second.

PACES teams will return to Norway this July, which will no doubt be another eye-opener for children. As one boy put it as he gazed at a Norwegian football field, “this is nothing like the camp; we don’t have to cross checkpoints anymore.”

For more info – PACES’ website

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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