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After fleeing from war-torn Iraq and seeking refuge in Canterbury-Bankstown, Chester Hill local, Malak El Hanoun, thought the tough times were over.
That was until her former Villawood home was robbed and burnt down - leaving herself and three sons, Hammam Al Hassan, 17, Haret, 14, and Zainalabedin, 6, homeless.
"It was really terrible. We lost everything, including a hearing aid for my son who is hearing impaired," she said.
"We fled Iraq to be safe here and then this happened."
At the time of the fire, Mrs El Hanoun and her children were overseas.
After losing her husband and the father of her children previously, Mrs El Hanoun said she thought she had been prepared for anything, until the fire.
"We’ve been devastated before but we always had a roof over our heads," Mrs El Hanoun said.
Mrs El Hanoun and her sons temporarily moved into a small motel room while they rebuilt their lives.
"While we were at the motel, my sons kept begging me to ring Council to see if they could take part in the Twilight Sports Program but at the time, I was busy and upset, and wasn’t thinking about putting them into any programs," she said.
"When I said no, I couldn’t sleep well because I knew the kids needed something to distract them from everything they had gone through.
"Even though they were grateful, they said the motel felt like a prison, so I rang Council and asked if they could participate in Twilight Sports.
"I knew they needed an activity that made them feel like kids again, something to make them forget about the bad stuff."
Mrs El Hanoun said she still couldn’t believe how helpful and understanding Council’s Twilight Sports staff were.
"There are no words. I will never forget how so many, including Council staff, helped my family physically and emotionally," she said.
Administrator, Richard Colley said the program was one of Council’s most valuable services.
"It just goes to show how the smallest program can help change someone’s life," Mr Colley said.
"Twilight Sports provides young people with access to other local youth and support services; an opportunity to participate in a variety of physical team sports; provides volunteering and training opportunities; and above all, helps build self-esteem and resilience."
Apart from the program being entirely free for participants, it also includes free dinner, uniforms and transport home each week, and encourages youth to maintain their physical, social and mental health and wellbeing.
Since Twilight Sports began in 2012, more than 740 youth have participated in the program.
Term 3 began on Saturday (5 August) and will run until Saturday 16 September. Sports will include European Handball and Basketball.
To register as a player or volunteer, or to find out more information, go to cb.city/twilightsports or contact tournament manager, Melissa Semeri, on 9707 9092.
27/03/2018 9:12 AM