Bruce Buck joined Chelsea Foundation coaches and CEO of Plan International UK Tanya Barron at the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan this week, home of 36,000 Syrian refugees.
Back in October, former Women’s captain and club ambassador Katie Chapman visited the camp, helping to deliver a series of football coaching sessions and meeting adults and children displaced by the conflict in Syria, from which more than 5.5 million people have fled.
The visit provided the refugees with top-level guidance, fun and laughter, but more importantly a sense of hope for the future and the knowledge they have not been forgotten by the outside world.
This week, Chelsea Chairman Buck made the trip, witnessing much excitement from the children as Chelsea returned following Chapman’s visit at the end of last year.
Buck, who was also accompanied by head of the Chelsea Foundation, Simon Taylor, said: ‘We’ve had a relationship with Plan for four years and when we were looking at a new charity partner we interviewed various charities and felt the power of football and Plan could do a lot of good. Coming here and seeing what can be achieved shows we made the right choice.
‘We are in a refugee camp of about 35,000 people, they are living in really desperate conditions. They have enough food but other than that it is really unsatisfactory and people shouldn’t be living this way.
‘Plan and other charities are doing what they can to make their lives just a little bit better under the circumstances and Chelsea are here to provide a little fun and excitement and hopefully some smiles on the faces of the kids.
‘As soon as these young kids see a Chelsea shirt, all they want to do is talk about Eden Hazard and other players and play some football, and hopefully through football we can help them a bit. Our Chelsea coaches have been before and when the kids saw them arrive again they were delighted.
‘I know that Chelsea fans will share our pride in what we are achieving with Plan here in Jordan and throughout the world.’
The Chelsea Foundation coaches, David Monk and Michael Cornall, led sessions with boys and girls aged 9 to 16, with the training sessions designed to be inclusive while the coaches also worked with Plan International volunteers for a football session with young people with disabilities. Plan International is working for improved disability inclusion for children and young people across the camp
In addition to the coaching, Buck and the team visited Plan International’s first base in Village 5, and met with young people in their arts and crafts club; an extra-curricular activity run by Plan International in the camp, with the support of refugee volunteers.
The team then went on to visit the second base for Plan International in Village 5, a new more central base. There the team met with the community leaders and discussed issues faced by the families in the camp.
Finally there was a visit to a life-skills class, where young people acted out scenarios and then talked through how to overcome them, building confidence and skills for the future. The art class was led by a talented Syrian refugee Plan International volunteer.
The youth committee eagerly met with the group and shared issues close to their heart, including Moussa, 17, from Daraa. The day ended with celebration and dance.
Tanya Barron CEO said: ‘Chelsea have shown strong commitment retuning to the Azraq camp. I hope the fans will see the hope and smiles they are bringing to the children here with their support. The Azraq camp is a desolate desert, with little opportunity and not a great place to grow up. The camp is not a quick fix and many will be here for years. It is fantastic we can work together with Chelsea to try and make their lives just that bit better.'
The Chelsea Foundation coaches returned to the camp the following day to deliver further coaching to the young people.
On Sunday Chapman will be running the London Marathon to raise money for Plan to further support the work being done in Azraq and other countries around the world.