Rhythmic Gymnastics for Kids Displaced by Wars: Support Through Sport

The Cause

The war in Ukraine has changed the world affecting almost everyone far beyond Ukrainian borders. The war has caused many to be forced to flee their homes in Ukraine and try to rebuild new lives here in Canada. As part of military and humanitarian support, Canada and many other countries initiated multiple programs to help Ukrainians including immigration measures for those fleeing the war violence. Calgary has hosted over 4,000 Ukrainian evacuees so far with more than 800 Ukrainian kids entered Calgary schools. Chinook Rhythmique Gymnastics Club (CRGC) has had club members who have been offering their homes to Ukrainian, and they share emotional stories about the kids from these families only talk about the war and try to communicate with their friends back in Ukraine to make sure they are still alive. No child should have to live in this constant state of stress and survival.

Based on prior studies, refugee trauma encompasses some or most of the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Limited research on refugee trauma in children indicates the same symptoms in at least half of children who had exposure to war. Aerobic exercising has proved to be a viable treatment for PTSD, anxiety, and depression and even comparable to such common treatments as psychotherapy and pharmacology, especially for improving coping strategies, managing anxiety, and reducing stress associated with war exposure and postmigration. However, access to aerobic exercise opportunities for children from refugee families is rather limited in Canada due to budget constraints and language barriers. For example, many of the displaced Ukrainian families have limited financial means and often do not know English language well.

Our club has initiated a discount program to help some of these families as well as created a place where these families can come and have a safe, fun, and loving community around them during this difficult time. However, being a non-profit significantly limits CRGC’s budget for this cause. At the same time, CRGC is uniquely positioned to offer high-quality aerobic exercising opportunities in the form of rhythmic gymnastics. The funding will be directed towards approximately 20-40 children from war zones in all club's programs, depending on the amount of funding received. CRGC hopes to contribute to lessen the suffering of the children displaced by war in Ukraine and other countries.

Who Will it Benefit?

CRGC’s Initiative “Rhythmic Gymnastics for Kids Displaced by Wars” seeks funding to offer CRGC programs at competitive and recreational levels in rhythmic gymnastics to children who came from Ukraine and other war zones to create a place/community for these families to belong in their new home, Canada, and help to improve their health. This funding will benefit society at large as (1) it will improve the overall mental and physical health of children and indirectly their parents; (2) better health of newcomers means lower pressure on Canadian healthcare system, and (3) more time for parents while their child can continue to train and have structured activities means greater prospects to find better jobs to establish their lives here in Canada.

Additional funding will go towards two streams: (1) full or partial funding of gymnasts who have trained in Ukraine and who would like to continue their training here in Canada (pre-competitive and competitive programs); and (2) full funding for recreational beginner classes for children from refugee families with no prior training in rhythmic gymnastics. The first stream will help gymnasts from families fleeing war violence to continue with their training while in Canada. We have had several Ukrainian families reach out to us asking if their daughters could continue their training in rhythmic gymnastics at our club. Funding would be extremely helpful to these families so that their daughters can enjoy doing what they love and their lives are less affected by the war. The second stream is proposed to go towards introductory gymnastics classes that will be offered to the families displaced by wars at no cost. These classes should provide an opportunity for children to come learn something new and have fun while engaging in active exercising. It is also a place where parents can guarantee that their child is in a safe space and can use class time to establish their lives here in Canada. Kids would get to try something new and get involved in sports, boosting both their mental and physical health. This class would also help benefit the parents by supporting their mental health. Because of the better mental/physical health of their kids they will feel good that their child is involved in something that is benefiting them. Also, the class could give them more time to focus on establishing their lives here in Canada in terms of learning English, getting jobs, etc.