Building bridges by Camilla Bakkær Simonsen

Building bridges: A co-creation intervention preparatory project based on female Syrian refugees’ experiences with physical activity has just become available.  The authors invite you to consider if have been forced away from your country of origin? Or been uprooted?

Can you imagine how much stress on your health such a precarious situation could inflict on you? On your family?

For refugees, if lucky, they will find a new country. For them, the country is new. They are also new to the country; they become a “new-comer” and have to deal with a new language, culture, lifestyle and job situation. Different under-standings might occur.  They/ you might find yourself in a cross-pressure between dearly held beliefs and the attempt to adapt to the “normal” in the new country. It takes time to grow (new) roots.

In relation to this rooting process, participation in sports and physical activities is perceived as a means of increasing well-being and fostering social inclusion of refugees in their new host societies. However, researchers criticize the existing approaches in sports-related integration-programs for not taking into account the specific needs, former experiences and interests of refugees.

In this study, we have taken a sustainable approach in the attempt to build bridges between female Syrian refugees and the Danish society in relation to physical activity (PA). This involves a sensitive approach to the female Syrian refugees’ understandings, needs and preferences to be physically active.

We have investigated how female Syrian refugees together with local actors (from the municipality, sports- and exercise provider) could develop ideas on how to design exercise-offers, which take into account the female refugees’ wishes, and needs. The initial results indicated that the involved refugees had a broad understanding of physical activity, awareness of its beneficial effects, a desire to be physically active in a variety of ways and with others. They had experiences both in Syria and Denmark (primarily related to daily routines, recreational activities, and activities with their families). Furthermore, an “expectation gap” between the sports/exercise providers and the refugees concurrently identified the need for preparing providers to work with refugees.

We invite you to learn more about this by reading the AR+ Blog which includes free 15 day access without paywall to this article beginning now. The corresponding author is Camilla Bakkær Simonsen, Department of Public Health, Sports Science, Aarhus University, Dalgas Avenue 4, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Email: 

DOI for future reference:   https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/14767503211009571

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