Anushe Sheikh, United States-Pakistan
Today was monumental for me. Alexandra Chen, a remarkable woman and a child psychotherapist, specialized in victims of sexual assault and trauma, gave us profound advice that I wish I had received a long time ago.
The very first wisdom she passed onto us was to leave our expectations at the door, to fight the temptation to make sense of the next two weeks by comparing it with what we already know. Because the fact is that we don’t know. We don’t know what it’s like to lose everything. We don’t know what it’s like to witness the death of a parent. We don’t know what it’s like to worry about our passports or our accents. We don’t live in constant fear of being deported.
Instead, she offered an alternative that I will try to be mindful of during the next few weeks. Be present. Be aware of the trauma Syrians have faced. Acknowledge that there are things you will never be able to fully comprehend about their experience. Couple your positive intentions with cultural sensitivity so that, and this is imperative, you do no harm.
There are inevitably power dynamics. The thought that I could hurt them more and add onto their pain and suffering is terrifying to me. Something as seemingly insignificant and small as a hug or a compliment about their appearance could be perceived as threatening, triggering and traumatic for the child if they were victims of sexual violence.
Also, due to the frequent pictures of suffering children peppered on my social media feeds, I felt that it was incredibly important to be reminded by Alexandra that they cannot access or control these pictures and how they’re used. By posting a picture on social media and robbing them of their right, I would only be taking more from people who have already lost everything.
I think the fact that Jusoor personally asks for the consent of parents & students before taking a student’s picture and displaying it on a poster is incredibly telling of the thoughtful and dignified manner in which Jusoor operates. I’m so grateful to have received these guidelines for the next few weeks, and honored to be a drop in the ocean of the sincere, heart-filled, and amazing work that Jusoor does every day.