Leyla* lives with her husband, two children, and 80-year-old father in Northeast Syria. Together with her husband, she opened a fitness center shortly after the war in Syria started a decade ago.
“The last 10 years of war have been very difficult for us. We have lost friends and family members. So many people lost their jobs and hardly have enough money to pay their rent or buy food. For our business, this has been difficult, because a lot of people cannot afford to pay to go to the gym or do anything for their wellbeing.”
In Northeast Syria the war has destroyed a lot of green spaces and recreational activities have been halted in many places. “I think it’s really important that we offer places where young women and men feel safe and can enhance their physical and mental wellbeing. Finding the space to do something for yourself in an ongoing warzone is a rarity.” For Leyla, the fitness center is the only place where she feels at ease.
“I think physical exercise really helps improve our mental wellbeing.”
To make her business more viable, Leyla applied to be part of CARE’s business skills trainings and to receive a grant. With $5,000, she purchased better equipment, such as weight training machines, refurbished the center and hired two fitness trainers. This allowed her to attract new customers and double her profit within one year.
Leyla says that she feels a lot more confident in herself and her capacities after undergoing CARE’s training program, allowing her to better manage her business, as well as share her new skills with her husband. “The war is so hard on all of us. I think physical exercise really helps improve our mental wellbeing. I am really grateful that we can offer a great gym for people to help them do something for themselves.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities