“In the end, I gain a new friend.” How Chess is bringing Syrians togetherPublished: Apr 12, 2022 Reading time: 2 minutes
The war has driven people from their homes, villages, and towns. They seek a safe place and often must make long journeys to find a temporary home. People settle in different areas, often in other regions, and must adapt to the new reality of their lives. The situation is not challenging for people who flee danger but also for communities living in areas that are suddenly forced to accept new members to the communities.
Divergent cultures, habits, and lifestyles meet on one spot. To foster communal coexistence and bring people closer, People in Need has organized diverse activities where people from different backgrounds can meet and form new friendships. One such example was a two-day-long chess tournament for 28 participants from different communities.
“I have been playing Chess since I was 12 years old. My brother taught me, and we played together,” said Khoda, 29, one of the participants. Chess has also been a favorite game for Ibrahim, 43, who undertook the role of arbiter in the chess tournament in Northern Syria.
“First, I learned the basic rules by playing with friends. About four years ago, I started using an online application where I learned more and played with people from different countries worldwide, and I also participated in competitions,” he said.
People in Need always considers and works to facilitate the preferred activities of community members. “People were interested in mental activity. We chose a chess competition since this game is very popular among all groups in our community,” notes Emad from PIN´s team. ‘’We want to support harmony and cohesion among all the people here – those from the host community and displaced people who came from all the Syria regions and settled here. Through our activities, they have a better chance to meet each other, create friendships, and learn a lot about the customs and traditions,’’ he said.
Different cultures, one place, one game, and a friendship
‘’I love the enthusiasm in this game, and when the game is over, I have gained a new friend,’’ said Khoda, adding: ‘’It motivates you to think deeply to find a way to win like if you were in a real problem. It develops problem-solving skills.’’
The game brings Ibrahim the same delight and joy: “There are so many wonderful feelings that cannot be described in words. When I win the competition, I feel like a king in a battle.’’
But it does not end with one competition. According to Emad, people enjoyed the tournament so much they also created a WhatsApp group to stay in touch and coordinate for chess matches in the future.
Thanks to the European Neighborhood Instrument, PIN can support communities affected by protracted conflict in Northern Syria.