A day in the life of... Tamara Awartani

8th November 2013 at 00:00
Day-to-day life in Palestine may be a struggle but this physical education teacher will not be daunted: she is determined to use sport to set her students free - and to put her country on the map

I wake up each morning with goals I want to reach with my students - something new to pass on to them and help make it an enjoyable day. Children living in Palestine during the Israeli occupation generally have few opportunities, but I believe that sport can help them to achieve a great deal and at least feel free while doing so.

I believe that sport builds character; it can develop a person's soft skills, such as communication and leadership, as well as help them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I am currently working at The Friends School in the city of Ramallah. I teach 10th grade physical education to 15-year-olds, but I also manage an after-school sport programme for 7th to 11th graders and coach the basketball teams. I founded the organisation Palestine: Sports for Life, which has established a basketball school for children aged 3-18.

I don't start school until the afternoon because of my after-school commitments. I teach two PE classes for girls and a separate boys' class. This is my first year at the school, and to start with it was a challenge to get the children interested in sport, to encourage them to think and learn, not just play.

We are currently doing a fitness unit. We test our students' speed, balance, agility and endurance, and then compare their results with youth charts. This motivates them: they want to see where they rank alongside other young people their age.

The students will then produce their own training regime based on their results. This will be interesting, as it will allow them to research different exercises and try them out; exercises that need minimal equipment, if any.

My after-school sport programme, which is mandatory, aims to make sport a way of life for children. Students choose from a range of sports and focus on four main categories: recreational, skill training, competitions, and health and fitness. I hire coaches to teach the different sports on offer, providing job opportunities for Palestine's many unemployed sports graduates. The programme also gives coaches and students an opportunity to scout and be scouted for school teams.

I have a passion for basketball and I try to pass on my love for the game. I coach the girls' and boys' teams at my school, and they practise hard with the aim of winning championships.

It was because of my passion that I established Palestine: Sports for Life. It's amazing what sport can do. Children's personalities can change and they can become better communicators. Sport forces them out of their comfort zone.

It can also give them the opportunity to experience different cultures. We recently took part in an international basketball tournament in Italy. Our students lived with Italian families, sharing their daily lives as well as playing basketball. The experience showed them how it is to live freely, that there can be so much more to life than what they are used to.

I love being around children, teaching them and sharing good times. My work takes my mind off the situation in Palestine. I hope it is helping to put us on the map as a sporting nation.

Your day

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