Waleed Abu Nada, a Dual Degree in Business Administration and Laws student from Jordan, created the Champ Camp: a weightlifting project to help the refugees in this hometown.
The Baqa’a refugee camp, established in 1968, is found 20km north of the Jordanian capital Amman. It is the largest refugee camp in Jordan and home to around 100,000 Palestinian refugees. Recently, Baqa’a has also become home to the social initiative, the Champ Camp, led by IE University student Waleed Abu Nada.
At the early age of 14, Waleed Abu Nada was already writing about sports for major publications like the BBC and the Image. Passionate about athletics, Waleed looked for ways sports might be able to improve the situation in his home-country, Jordan. He found that sports could have a significant positive impact on youth development. With this impetus, he wrote a book about sports based youth development called, Implementing the SBYD Strategy, Learning Through Sports.
At this time, he also began a project working with children from underprivileged communities and although the project was a success, it was unsustainable. After this experience, Waleed continued to work toward helping the community. The Champ Camp would become his most impactful initiative.
The Champ Camp is not only an Olympic weightlifting club; Waleed’s vision for this initiative goes far beyond sports and athletics. It is a project about bringing hope, joy, community, and motivation to the youth who make up the team. As Waleed says, it is about much more than lifting weights. It is about “lifting the community,” starting with its children.
The mission of the organization is to prepare youth for successful incorporation into society. It teaches them to confidently progress socially and through education, using the discipline and dedication learned while practicing high-level athletics. The Champ Camp also focuses on female empowerment, and is the largest female weightlifting team to ever exist in the Middle East.
In less than two years, members of the Champ Camp have won over 21 international medals (18 of which were won by female participants). The organization has also received seed funding from the International Olympics Committee, been featured in the media in more than 100 countries, and in 2018, became the first-ever Arab organization to receive the Filippas Engel award.
Waleed founded the initiative in August 2017 with the help of the Jordan Olympic Committee and in close collaboration with captain Ali Al Gabri. Al Gabri had already been teaching kids weightlifting at the camp in an underfunded training hall, which he and Waleed have been working to remodel and update since the start of the program.
Even though Waleed, a former Olympian himself, has always been an outspoken advocate for the key role sports and athletics play in everyday life, the inspiration for the Champ Camp came from IE University. As a freshman passionate about weightlifting, Waleed started a varsity weightlifting club at the university’s campus located in Segovia. It was after noticing the positive impact sports were having on IE University students, that he realized what a powerful device for change weightlifting and sports could be.
The Champ Camp aims to provide a place where young refugees can feel safe, find purpose, build endurance, and gain courage and dignity regardless of race, religion, gender, or background; it is a goal that resonates throughout what has become the best weightlifting facility in the Middle East. The organization aims to provide youth who have experienced painful situations a way to channel their energy into something positive, ultimately contributing to the future of their community. With this mission in mind, Waleed is organizing a tournament called Vision 90 for August 2019, in which every medal awarded is named after a value essential for personal growth. The participant who wins each medal will be responsible for showing how that value can be incorporated into their community. These are the types of initiatives that set this club apart.
The Champ Camp is also set apart by the support it receives from influential mentors, including Nobel Peace Prize winner, professor Muhammad Yunus. Waleed’s vision for the future includes expanding the organization to reach 75% of underprivileged communities and remote areas in Jordan, and increasing the educational aspect of the club by incorporating more speaker sessions and even a program of courses. A special needs team and a scholarship to cover 25% of university fees, which Waleed named Amal, or hope, after his mother, are among other initiatives for growth and improvement. Waleed summarizes the mission of the club succinctly, saying, “We don’t just want to help build champion athletes, but champion people.”