Lifting Weights and Spirits

Mercy Corps is a global organisation powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into


Mercy Corps is a global organisation powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action—helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. 

Together with delivering life-saving aid inside of Syria reaching hundreds of thousands of people each month, Mercy Corps is also supporting people and families who have been forced to flee the seven year-long conflict. Through our work in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, we are helping Syrian refugees not only survive the crisis, but giving them opportunities to thrive. 

In Kharja, a town in Jordan not far from the border with Syria lives Lena who is just one of some 2,000 Syrians who’ve sought refuge there. With the town’s population having swelled by 20 per cent, tensions can run high between the refugee population and the host community, not least because of increased pressure on already stretched resources and services. 

August 2017, Karjah, Jordan. Syrian and Jordanian community leaders met through a Mercy Corps conflict resolution program, and decided that the biggest need in Karjah was a women-only gym. Leila (right), a Jordanian woman who now runs the gym, and Lina (left), a Syrian woman, were both part of the community group that made the gym possible. They learned to work together through the Mercy Corps program, and created something that is having a positive impact on everyone in the community.

To help refugees and their local neighbours diffuse potential areas of conflict and improve their community together, Mercy Corps developed a conflict resolution programme that breaks the ice, teaches mediation and negotiation skills, and ends with the completion of a community project.

Through this programme, Leila, who is Jordanian, and her new best friend Lena, from Syria, have built Kharja’s first women’s gym. They decided to propose a gym because women previously had a return trip of four hours if they wanted to visit one. “Women should dedicate time to themselves. As community leaders we are trying to empower women,” they told us. Through the gym, the women now have a place that they can call their own, and through the Mercy Corps programme, they have learned negotiation techniques, project management, and how to build bridges. The gym means more than just exercise; it is vital for the wellbeing of the community and the women who live there.Lena’s experience as a refugee in her community also changed as the project evolved. “Once I signed up for the training, it was transformational,” she says. “When I worked side by side with them I only felt respect.”

August 2017, Karjah, Jordan. Syrian and Jordanian community leaders met through a Mercy Corps conflict resolution program, and decided that the biggest need in Karjah was a women-only gym. Leila (pictured), a Jordanian woman who now runs the gym, and Lina, a Syrian woman, were both part of the community group that made the gym possible. They learned to work together through the Mercy Corps program, and created something that is having a positive impact on everyone in the community.

Thanks to the generosity of Mercy Corps supporters, in towns just like Kharja, playgrounds, libraries, community centres, football fields and medical facilities are being built. With both refugees and their neighbours invested in these projects, Mercy Corps is helping to build new communities based on shared endeavour, values and experience.

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