Julia Imbriaco, United States
Marhaba, Jusoor family! My name is Julia, and I am a new Jusoor volunteer and a Master’s Degree student at Columbia University studying education and humanitarian policy. I am happy to share some reflections from the beginning of Jusoor’s fifth annual summer program: a three-week day camp for over 400 children, ranging from 6-12 years old.
This summer, 27 volunteers from seven countries were accepted to be part of Jusoor’s summer program, out of over 100 applications received – I’m lucky I made the cut! While we volunteers represent many cultures, languages, and levels of teaching experience, we agree that all children are owed a safe learning environment where they can play and grow, no matter where they live or where their passport is from. We share a desire to provide a safe, fun, and engaging summer experience for Syrian children in Lebanon.
In our first days with Jusoor, we have learned about the organization and the Syrian refugee experience in Lebanon today. More than one million Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon, of which 40 percent are living in informal settlements in the Bekaa Valley where Jusoor operates two learning centers. Jusoor provides education opportunities to more than 1,200 students annually in math, science, Arabic, English, and peacebuilding, to help them prepare to enroll in the Lebanese public school system, as well as extracurricular activities and homework help after school.
Jusoor’s goal for the summer program is to keep engaging with their students through fun classroom activities and sports. To meet this goal in a way that keeps Jusoor familiar to students and parents, its teachers and administrative staff are also part of the summer program, helping volunteers as we lead prepared activities for the students. I am very grateful to be managing a classroom with one of Jusoor’s wonderful teachers, who is truly committed to her students and so generously helping me with my Arabic pronunciation as I try to master some helpful phrases, like “How is everyone today?” and, “Who wants to sing a song?”
Volunteer training is taking place at one of Jusoor’s centers in the Bekaa Valley, about 90 minutes from Beirut. Our first few days have been really fun—we learned some first aid techniques from the Red Cross, activities for the classroom from Right to Play, how to manage classroom behavior from Consultant Advocacy for Remedial Education, and cultural sensitivities from a child protection professional. All of the speakers have been masters of their subjects, experts in applying them to Jusoor’s spaces and students, and genuinely interested in fresh ideas and perspectives from us new members of the Jusoor family. The caliber of the training is such a gift, and ensures that we volunteers are prepared to do the best job that we can during the summer program.
Moving to a new country for the summer is always full of surprises. In this respect, I have won the jackpot by volunteering with Jusoor: the organization lives and breathes a spirit of collaboration, mutual respect, and enthusiasm for its mission. In graduate school, we learn that these are precisely the qualities that make inclusive, community-driven organizations successful. Joining Jusoor is a humbling and provocative experience, showing me how much I can learn from my fellow volunteers, Jusoor’s teachers and its staff. I can’t wait to see what comes next in our training week, and I really can’t wait to meet my classroom of students. Thanks for reading – shukraan lilqara’a!