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a therapeutic climbing gym was born in Bihać

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a therapeutic climbing gym was born in Bihać

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

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

The operators of Mediterranean Hope (the Migrants and Refugees Program of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy) noticed this immediately. Niccolò Parigini, Idea and project management di Mh, arrived in Bihać last year and in three months of stay he had the opportunity to meet and interact with local young people: “They often spoke to me about the lack of alternatives, of spaces to promote social cohesion or simply to be together . In Lebanon, where I have worked for years, there is an association that practices therapeutic climbing with young Syrian and Palestinian from informal camps near Beirut and I myself climb and know what the power of this sport can be, so I have immediately thought that a climbing gym could be an opportunity for young Bosnians “.

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There are several studies that show that climbing is therapeutic in itself. Although it is an activity that is practiced individually, it is a profoundly social sport: when climbing walls, be they artificial or natural, there is always someone who “makes sure”, holding the rope from below, and when you do boulder, that is, he climbs for short routes without the need for a rope, there is a companion who “spots” you and blocks your fall. “By practicing this sport there is therefore a lot of space for communication, discussion and for the birth of very strong bonds of trust – continues Parisians -. Furthermore, several international studies have demonstrated the efficacy of ‘climbing therapy’ in dealing with disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress ”.

Some children are climbing at 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 operator of Mh -, even if there are mountains and there are some gymnasiums, climbing is a sport that is still somewhat unknown in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also due to the presence of a large number of mines in the area, but they were immediately enthusiastic about it. 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, expert climber and artist, who immediately accepted to be part of the team and had the role of Technical designer e works supervisor in imagining the gym. The starting point was in fact an empty space, the Spomen Dom USOJ – that is the memorial house of the Yugoslav youth alliance -, where Bertelè projected his imagination to create a “sculpture” in metal and wood: “One was born space where the stories of the city of Bihać also converged, a canvas on which Francesco developed a drawing, a moving painting on the walls, a painting that will change over time, as the paths in the gym will change – adds the operator of Mh -. Hence the name chosen for the structure: ‘Flamingo Loophole’. The word ‘loophole’ represents an ambiguity or inadequacy in a system, while the flamingo is something exotic, it represents the way in which we all perceive something foreign, regardless of whether we arrive or host ” .

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And it is precisely this idea of ​​inclusion that the gym wants to embody through the proposed activities: “Spectrum will take care of the management of the opening to the public and the involvement of people who will independently come to climb in the gym – explains Parigini – while I and Léa Karam (Project management, communication and design di Mh) we will organize themed courses and 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 single minors, who are in the camps. We would like to organize playful moments, such as small amateur competitions, to create opportunities for integration. Our desire is that the gym is a place open to all, a safe space of solidarity and inclusion “.

It will be more difficult to involve the many people in transit who are still in the Canton of Una-sana today. Since January 2018, arrivals in the country registered by UNHCR amounted to about 90 thousand. Although observers report a trend decreasing, Bihać nevertheless remains a fundamental hub for groped to reach the EU. And despite the policy of concentration of people in the Lipa confinement camp, it is estimated that there are at least 300-400 men, women and minors in the informal camps around the city. This is demonstrated by the same experience of Mediterranean Hope who, together with the Bosnian NGO Kompass 071, opened a day center at the beginning of last winter where migrants can take a shower, drink tea or coffee and take clothes or sleeping bags. “There are days when few people come to the shelter, but there are others when there are dozens who need our services since the morning, or who spend the evening recharging before trying the Game again. More than 1,200 people have passed from January to today ”.

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