2021 has been such a strange year for us all. We started this season by gingerly starting face to face introductory sessions for young people at the Arbat Refugee Camp. As school has been closed at the camp almost continuously since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic began, the kids have been climbing the walls with frustration. Needless to say, some more focused outlet for climbing was appreciated by a LOT of the children.
By early spring, the UNHCR allowed face to face contact with the projects that it funds, so we were also able to start training with children from STEP's Mobile Teams project, as well as some of the older teenagers that are part of Youth Committees.
In the end the team trained 144 young people at the camp, and about 50 young people from the Mobile Teams. This activity has been especially popular with the girls, which is not something we expected. While we have had girls participate in the past, this year the girls outnumbered the boys by 2:1. Unfortunately, we only had enough of a budget to run ten climbing days last year - but the good news is that a donor has given enough funds to cover at least double that amount next year, and we are hoping that that will be expanded so that we can do a weekly trip.
While it has been a strange year - it feels like we have really hit on a formula that works well and that we can build on and expand into the future. We are looking into how to develop Adventure Therapy here, and we are excited about making our sessions more 'intentional' and hopefully beneficial for the participants. There is no doubt that the young people love the adventure and sense of freedom that being out in the wilds gives them. For many, they are cooped up in less than ideal situations - so even at a very basic level, a chance to get out into nature is a very good thing. Next year, we aim to take it further.
Personally, I had great fun climbing the longest climb in Iraq called 'Dragon Wall'. It's a 300m 7 pitch climb, that while not too hard (5b) is certainly a major undertaking. There's not many climbs like this in the country. However, the potential for new routing is enormous. If you want an adventurous break with the chance to put up a lifetimes worth of new climbs - get in touch - we know just the place for you!