My name is E.Ray and I’m a new addition to the Bidna Capoeira team here in Damascus. I’m working with Bidna as a part of my second year practicum for my M.A. in Sustainable International Development at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
I arrived to Damascus on a hot night after a long flight from the U.S. knowing only that the organization I was to work with had said they would send someone to pick me up. No names or other details were given.
However, having been a Capoeirista (someone who plays Capoeira) for several years and being armed with a berimbau (the large bow-shaped instrument used for Capoeira), I knew that I would be pretty easy to pick out of a crowd for any would-be greeters.
Sure enough, my new friend Corvo (his Capoeira nickname that means crow in Portuguese) picked me right out of the dazed crowd of deplaning passengers as I came through the customs line. I also spotted him immediately because of his strategically-chosen Capoeira t-shirt.
From there we hopped into a patched-together minivan and blazed away into the teeming night life of Damascus. I was amazed at the complexity of character in the pulse of the Damascus streets that, in spite of their unique sights and sounds, still held the tell-tale signs of a metropolis.
I made it safe and sound to my bed for the first night and met my new colleagues: Tarek, Ummul, and Mustafa a few days later. That’s me newly ensconced in the Bidna Capoeira office and bending over backwards to help get some of our new projects off of the ground. Bidna Capoeira uses the Brazilian combination of dance and martial arts known as capoeira as a psycho-social therapy tool for refugee or marginalized youth.
Now, a few months after my first eye-opening nights in Sham (the local name for this city), I have settled into my supporting role in getting Bidna Capoeira’s early projects off of the ground. Although this young NGO has had some preliminary successes, we are currently expanding with that model into neighboring countries. My time with them so far has been filled with jumping between the exciting and challenging tasks associated with an entrepreneurial start-up environment as well as some more focused work on building our external communications and fundraising strategies.