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How a Student from Qatar Created a Sports Facility for Young People in Bremen
November 2, 2021
Without Gharissa Al Muftah, the calisthenics park at Jacobs University Bremen would not have existed. Building it was not only her idea, she also secured the financing, brought together the cooperation partners and coordinated the construction of the fitness facility. "Sports mean a lot to me, it brings people together," said the 23-year-old Jacobs University student, "that's also evident in the park."
The origins of the facility go back two years. At the time, Gharissa was training kids in Bremen's neighborhood, Lesum, as a first-year student. Training methods were grounded in the area of calisthenics, a collective term for exercises using one's own body weight, for example on pull-up bars, or dangling stretches in outdoor training areas, outside of expensive gyms. To do this, she used the calisthenics facility operated by Hood Training Bremen. This is how she built the relationship with the educational organization, whose goal it is to offer children and teenagers a place where they find support, can develop their skills and be active in the community through sports. Hood Training is now also on board with the calisthenics park at Jacobs University.
"What I particularly like about the concept is that everyone can participate. I immediately had the idea of building such a facility at JUB and fill it with life," said Gharissa, who trains a lot herself. In her home country Qatar, she was a member of the national sailing team. She also sails in Bremen and practices Cross Fit as well.
Her idea was also a perfect fit, because Jacobs University students are encouraged to get involved in academic projects in Bremen for the benefit of the community to create positive change: "Community Impact Project" is the name of this initiative. In interdisciplinary projects, the students apply the knowledge they have acquired at university with, and for, partners and people in the region, and simultaneously gain practical experience. "Our students can propose their own projects, but ideas can also come from companies, organizations or initiatives from Bremen-Nord and the surrounding area," explained Jakob Fruchtmann, sociologist at Jacobs University and initiator of the CIP program. "It's been a great success so far and is very well received by people in the region."
The cooperation with Hood Training, and the corresponding creation of the calisthenics park on the Jacobs University campus was a perfect fit for this initiative. The only obstacle holding back the dream of its construction was monetary: The necessary funding was lacking, a low five-figure sum was needed. Gharissa was able to help there too. "In my home country, we believe that sports unite and bring the community together. That's why I thought I might succeed in finding a sponsor in my home country," Gharissa remembered. She did indeed manage to find a financier, but he wishes to remain anonymous.
At Jacobs University, Gharissa is studying for a bachelor's degree in International Relations: Politics and History. She also has a sponsor for her studies: Her country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is financing her studies through a scholarship. "Our country specifically supports students especially in non-English speaking countries. The idea is to learn the language, experience the culture, integrate as much as possible, and then work for the Foreign Ministry," she explained.
That's the plan for her, too. Gharissa spent a year learning German in Berlin before coming to Jacobs University in Bremen. After graduating next summer, she will work at the Qatar Embassy in Berlin, that much is already certain. Gharissa is looking forward to it, explaining "it was always my dream to represent my country as a diplomat." It is no wonder, then, that Qatar's ambassador, Mr. Abdulla Mohammed Al Thani, was also present at the grand opening of the calisthenics park in October. There, to the applause of the amazed guests, some athletes from Hood Training showed the audience what is possible on the equipment. The calisthenics park at Jacobs University is now a meeting place: between students from all over the world and young people from Bremen-Nord and the region.
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff. Further episodes can be found at www.jacobs-university.de/faces.