Changemaker Stories: Coach Yousef Abu Yaman

The changemaker series – a set of articles that look to move the spotlight from the usual “project impact and outcomes” of our regular work but use the opportunity to acknowledge the humans behind these projects. Those who chose to go beyond and look at what they are doing, however big or small to bring about change for others in their communities. Here is an insight into the everyday heroes in the Dream Building Programme.

Changemakers are tenacious about the Greater Good, this description suits Yousef, coach of the Dream Building Programme in Azraq, like a glove. We had a chance to, virtually, sit with Yousef and find out more about himself and his motivation to get involved in the programme giving him time to share his love and knowledge of table tennis with residents of the Azraq refugee camp.

Yousef, 54, coach of the national table tennis team in Jordan for under 18 and under 15 cadet and junior has been involved in table tennis for more than 40 years. 20 of these as a player and 20 as coach. In the 90´s he volunteered time to coach persons with disabilities in the club “Al Moustaqbal” (Engl.: the future) for two years. The club had players of all abilities, standing and wheelchair users. One of the people he coached during this time was Maha Al Barghoussi who is the current Secretary General of the Jordanian Paralympic Committee, winner of three Paralympic medals in para table tennis.

He lives in Amman, Jordan and has 4 children, all of whom are in the table tennis national team of Jordan. Zaid and Sewar have been national champions for many years and Taima and Laith also play high level. During these challenging times of lockdown they made a table tennis family video that when viral.

Indeed, coach Yousef has a lot on his plate already, so why take the time to teach table tennis in the Azraq refugee camp? He needs two-hours to go to the camp from his home. Two hours there and two hours back and he goes twice a week, Thursdays, and Sundays.

His motivation?

Because he believes, we are all human and sees opportunities for everyone, the most important is the will to learn and the discipline to train regularly. In his words:

In any place if there is enough time and if people have the will, I will do everything I can to transmit the information and knowledge and teach them how to play table tennis safely and well.” Azraq Dream Building with Refugees Coach: Yousef Abu Yaman

This is a challenge in the camps, they both have time and do not have time. They have time to kill because there are limited things to do and yet everything takes so much time that survival activities are priority.

The Dream Building Project in the Azraq Camp

Yousef has been involved in the programme since its initiation in October 2019. He started coaching in December 2019. Sessions were unfortunately interrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown in March and he started again in July 2020. He does this twice a week on the side of his other commitments. When asked to say more about the project in Azraq he explains:

“The project in Azraq is good and noble, and I do what I can to help the children and people. However, the day to day conditions are very hard. Children and people in the camp spend most of their time tied to their families in a small space. Basic tasks in their daily lives are complicated to reach, simple things such as going to the market to secure food, bread, vegetables, water. Because there are many people, who need to do the same tasks, such basic activity takes a lot of time. Generally, sport is not a priority because of the conditions. In opposition with people who are outside, who can access groceries more easily. This, plus school, takes a lot of time, so sport, generally is set aside, never practised regularly or with commitment.”

We asked him why table tennis was so important to him:

In my childhood, in the beginning, I was playing football, but I got injured with a broken foot, I had a cast for three months and I started playing table tennis at school with kids and I started to like it a lot, I was often winning. Since then it is my favourite sport. My children have been raised with it and are enjoying it. Now it is me, my nature, I love table tennis, I try in any place to develop and promote table tennis, whether with my family, my house, it means everything to me.”

Yousef´s vision for the project:

My goal, I am trying to promote table tennis among all children and people in the camp, so they can learn and benefit from it. However, our space, is in district 3 and there are other tables in other districts. My goal is to reach all the districts in Azraq. I want to reach all the children in the camp, with and without disabilities, boys, and girls. The kids who are there, their situation is tough, and I want them to gain life skills and hope from through table tennis. I want them to gain positive skills since table tennis improves the way to collaborate with others and develops a positive behaviour and hope.”

You can see, Yousef’s vision is a big one. He goes the extra mile, whenever he can do something, he does. Last week, Yousef brought t-shirts and baseball caps for the participants. From time to time, one of his sons goes with him to the camp helping him with the sessions.

My son Laith is in the national youth team and studies sport education in university and he loves training and he loves helping others and he always asked me, constantly to come and help train, he loves to know the people, he is active in many activities in the university. So, I let him come and help.”

Captain Yousef’ as he is often called, is not one to bring attention to himself, he is someone you could pass unnoticed, which is why it is important to mention him, because he is a changemaker. By simply valuing other human beings equally, taking the time to share his knowledge and transfer it onto others. It is everyday people like Yousef, who go the extra mile to help, who are the changemakers we need in today’s world. With his humble approach, he takes the time to help others grow and sees potential in everyone, regardless of the labels others may see. And everywhere he shares his passion, success lurks around the corner, whether with his family or professional coaching. We are glad to have him on board in leading sessions and guiding the sessions in the Azraq refugee camp. If anyone can make a difference to the lives of the children taking part in the sessions, we have no doubt he is up to the task.

Learn more about the project in Azraq: HERE

The project exists thanks to the support of the AGITOS Foundation in collaboration with UNHCR, Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation and Noor Al Hussein Foundation

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