a therapeutic climbing gym was born in Bihać

The first therapeutic climbing gym in Bosnia and Herzegovina was inaugurated in Bihać on Saturday 11 June. An area with a scalable area of ​​100 square meters imagined and built within the “Balkan Rope” project with the idea of ​​creating a space for meeting and involvement through climbing.

The city of Bihać is known for being one of the “traps” of people who get caught on one of the Balkan routes. Located on the corner of Una-sana, on the border with Croatia, it has represented for years and still represents a place of departure – and return after the violent rejections of the Croatian police – for migrants trying game hoping to join the European Union. But not only people in transit need it: in a country where war wounds have not yet healed, where services and infrastructure are lacking, even the local community has few opportunities for development and emancipation.

Operators of Mediterranean Hope (the Migrant and Refugee Program of the Federation of Evangelical Churches of Italy) noticed this immediately. Niccolò Parigini, Management of ideas and projects di Mh, arrived in Bihać last year and in three months’ stay had the opportunity to meet and interact with local young people: “I was often told about the lack of alternatives, of spaces to promote the social cohesion or just to be together .. In Lebanon, where I have been working for years, there is an association that practices therapeutic climbing with young informal Syrian and Palestinian camps near Beirut and I go up and I know what the power of this sport, so I immediately thought of climbing. The gym could be an opportunity for young Bosnians. “

There are several studies that show that climbing is therapeutic in itself. Although it is an activity that is practiced individually, it is a deeply social sport: when climbing walls, whether artificial or natural, there is always someone who “secures” by grabbing the rope from below. , and when you do. bouldering, that is, it climbs short paths without the need for a rope, there is a companion who “stains” you and blocks your fall. “When practicing this sport, there is a lot of space for communication, discussion and the birth of very strong bonds of trust,” the Parisians continue. In addition, several international studies have shown the effectiveness of ‘climbing therapy’ in dealing with disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. “

Some children are climbing in the “Flamingo Loophole” gym in Bihać © Mediterranean Hope

For the idea to materialize, it was necessary to fit several pieces together. “The first step was to propose it to the local boys,” explains the Mh operator, “although there are mountains and there are some gyms. Climbing is a sport still a bit unknown in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although for the presence of a large number of mines in the territory, but they were immediately excited. Thus, involving the KES Spectrum sports association and the U Pokretu cultural center, we imagined the project ”. The second step was the chance meeting in Lampedusa with Francesco Bertelè, an expert climber and artist, who immediately agreed to be part of the team and played the role of Technical designer and construction manager imagining the gym. The starting point was in fact an empty space, the Spomen Dom USOJ – which is the memorial house of the Yugoslav youth alliance – where Bertelè projected his imagination to create a “sculpture” in metal and wood: ” A space was born where the stories of the city of Bihać also came together, a canvas on which Francesco developed a drawing, a moving painting on the walls, a painting that will change over time, as the paths of the gym The name ‘loophole’ represents an ambiguity or inadequacy in a system, while flamenco is something exotic. it represents the way we all perceive something foreign, regardless of whether we arrive or welcome. “

And it is precisely this idea of ​​inclusion that the gym wants to capture through the proposed activities: “Spectrum will be responsible for managing the opening to the public and the involvement of people who will come independently to climb the gym – explains Paris – while me and Léa Karam (Project management, communication and design di Mh) we will organize courses and thematic events. The idea is to involve young people, groups of women or vulnerable people, such as children in the orphanage, the Roma community and migrants, in particular unmarried minors, who are in the camps. We would like to organize fun moments, such as small amateur competitions, to create opportunities for integration. Our desire is for the gym to be a place open to everyone, a safe space for solidarity and inclusion ”.

It will be more difficult to involve the many people in transit who are still in the Una-sana Canton today. Since January 2018, the number of arrivals in the country recorded by UNHCR has risen to about 90,000. Although observers report to trend However, Bihać remains a key center for reaching the EU. And despite the policy of concentrating people in the Lipa confinement camp, it is estimated that there are at least 300 to 400 men, women and minors in the city’s informal camps. This is shown by the same experience of Mediterranean Hope, which, together with the Bosnian NGO Kompass 071, opened a day center at the beginning of last winter where migrants can shower, have tea or coffee and bring clothes or sacks. to sleep. “There are days when few people come to the shelter, but there are others when there are dozens who need our services from the morning, or who spend the afternoon recharging before trying the game again. More than 1,200 people have passed from January to today.

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