Alumni Inspiration
June 24, 2020

The legacy of Nina for women and sports

The name Nina Brekelman means a lot to the Fulbright family, and especially the Commission in Jordan; her legacy empowering women and girls through sports lives on through her foundation five years later.

The name Nina Brekelman means a lot for the Fulbright family, and especially the Commission in Jordan; Nina’s connection with Fulbright started when she was selected as part of the 2015 cohort of the U.S. Student grantees to Jordan where she would have spent a year in Amman being immersed in the culture while she conducted research, but tragically, the world lost Nina in the month of June five years ago before she had the chance to start her award.

Image courtesy of the Nina Brekelman Memorial Foundation

However, Nina’s impact on Jordan was already established on a previous visit to Jordan as a fellow of The Harvard University Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Amman a year earlier, during that time Nina was dedicated to empowering girls through sports which her volunteer work focused on and had plans to continue that work during her Fulbright award.

In the spirit of Nina Brekelmans’ passion for her host country and its people and her dedication to empowering the women and girls of Jordan, the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Fulbright Commission in Jordan created the “Nina Brekelmans Community Service Prize”, that was established in 2015. The parents of Nina along with Ms. Mary Grace Pellegrini created the “Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation” in her memory, and made sure her legacy lived on until this day through annual races, training and activities centered around the spirit and passions of Nina, when we talked to Nina's parents this month, Mr. and Mrs. Brekelman shared "We miss Nina every day, but thanks to the wonderful work of so many, Nina's passion of empowering women through sports endures."

The mission of the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation is to foster sports opportunities for young women in the Middle East by supporting running programs in Jordan to encourage healthy living, expand participation in the sport, and promote women’s empowerment.
Photo courtesy of Gail and Nico Brekelmans

The Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation was established in 2016 to foster athletic opportunities for young women in the Middle East by supporting running programs in Jordan to encourage healthy living, expand participation in the sport, and promote women’s empowerment.

Nina pictured with HRH Prince Firas Bin Raad receiving her award during the 2014 Dead Sea Ultra Marathon (Photo courtesy of Gail and Nico Brekelmans)

For the running camp, the foundation launched the camp for girls back in 2016, and have held it annually since,unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the camp for 2020 has to be rescheduled from June to a later time that is yet to be announced. You can read more about the camp and view highlights of each year by visiting this LINK.

(Photo courtesy of the Nina Brekelmans Foundation’s Instagram Page)
The Nina Brekelmans Running Camp for Girls was established in 2016 to fulfill Nina’s vision of building self-confidence, leadership, and well-being among young women in Jordan through running. The initiative's first year was supported with funding from the Nina Brekelmans Community Service Prize as well as private donations. The camp was launched as a partnership between Fulbright students from Nina’s cohort, leaders in the Jordanian running community, and Nina’s friends and family in the U.S.

We believe the impact that Nina’s work itself had for girls in sports and later on through her foundation is something that is hard to grasp, however, we saw it in one of their best volunteers and coaches that had a similar passion and love for sports and empowering girls as Nina, and that was through Ms. Rawdah Hamadneh, Ms. Hamadneh ended up applying to the Fulbright Pre-Doctoral award years later to pursue her master’s degree in the United States and was selected as part of the 2020-21 cohort, and when writing this post to celebrate Nina’s legacy, we asked Ms. Hamadneh to reflect about her time volunteering for the foundation.

Rawda Hamadneh during the camp of 2019 (Photo courtesy of the Nina Brekelman Foundation’s Instagram Page)

Rawda,can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

My name is Rawda Hamadneh, I got my bachelors degree in Physical Education from the University of Jordan, and worked in my field under different capacities such as a women’s swimming coach, teaching PE classes in schools and as a supervisor and facilitator in international organizations.

How were you first introduced to the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation?

With my deep passion for sports, I was interested in the work that the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation was doing and more so with their camp in Jordan. Soon after I got involved in their events as a volunteer and later became the head coach of their team, working with women and young girls through sports.

 What made you connect with the message that Nina planted and was later honored by her parents to empower girls through sport?

What I mostly like about the work that the Nina Brekelmans Memorial Foundation is doing is the opportunity and encouragement given to young girls that empowers them through sports. Working as a volunteer and later on as the head coach, it allowed me to see how the work that the foundation does fosters and works on many levels including:

1. Educating and spreading awareness in health, nutrition and teaching girls many life skills.

2. An opportunity to work and train with professional coaches that were experts in their field.

3. Accessible for girls to join, and always encouraging girls from all backgrounds to participate.

4. Catering to the Jordanian culture and conservative norms and adjusting the program to respect those guidelines and maintain privacy for girls.

What do you hope for the work that the foundation is doing for Jordan?

I hope the work of the foundation and the legacy of Nina is seen spread through Jordan and beyond, and that the joy and happiness I saw in the eyes of these girls would continue to be seen through the work they do, and that it would reach more areas of Jordan that are more disadvantaged, and continue to change the face of sports for Jordanian women.

 

You can follow the work of the Nina Brekelmans Foundation and activities by following their website and social media:

Website, Facebook, Instagram

 

Source of pictures and quotes: http://ninabrekelmansmemorial.org/

 

© 2020 Fulbright Jordan. All rights reserved