Rachel Drake, USA
In the midst of what is happening in a world that at times seems overwhelmingly discouraging, it is increasingly imperative to take a look at the progress of what is working against the backdrop of what is not. Though those working with Jusoor Syria are seeing some of the very raw and discouraging repercussions of war, what can also be seen is hope. Hope in the form of people coming together, both from those working with the organization and amongst those whom the organization supports, to advance towards the next phase of life for those in the refugee community. Jusoor Syria is providing the platform for those able and determined to help to do so synergistically. There is substantial effort to create an environment at the schools that is both creative and fun for these children, while also laying a foundation for a learning environment providing much needed stability and security in these young lives.
Artwork on the exterior wall of one of the schools for refugee children, Jarrahie.
The students arrive to school with bright smiles eager to greet with “Good Morning, Teacher!” The language barrier is present, to varying degrees, but it doesn’t dampen the children’s enthusiasm to try to communicate and play. The benefit of teaching sports, where my focus has been through the program, is that physical activity transcends the language barrier easier than traditional classroom material and everyone is able to participate and focus on playing, not any of the other stressful situations they may be encountering in other areas of life. In addition to some of the games and activities, elements of martial arts have been brought in, both in physical training and in the philosophy behind the sport.
In trying to explain some of the philosophy, such as remaining calm in the face of upsetting people or circumstances, self-control, focus and discipline, we’ve tried a few ‘mindfulness’ and breathing exercises with the intention to help students have a thoughtful approach to how they can handle some of the difficult emotions they are processing and have a way to take a few minutes to have some mental peace and tranquility. The full concept may not have fully taken hold yet, but if nothing else, for a few minutes everyone can be calm and can take a mental break from worries, memories and concerns that seem so heavy for these young minds.
Students first lesson in learning a Side Kick.
Though this program and others like it are having a positive impact, there is still much support that is needed for these children, and for children in similar situations throughout the world, but I do not see the disheartening scenes we may read about, watch or witness as reason to lose hope, for it is during these times to remember that this is when the rest of us come together and exemplify those valued components of humanity and put them into action through compassion, kindness, developing understanding and celebrating of diversity while recognizing the common elements of humankind that run through all of us.
The playground for students at one of the schools for refugee children, Jeb Jannine