Bassil El-Zaatari, Lebanese-American
As we drove up the usual curvy, hilly roads towards Jib Jannin, I knew today would be different. For today would be the day we sat down with our teachers and talked to them about lesson planning. We started off with Val giving us a demonstration of a sound activity we could use with the kids. This demonstration involved using harmony and music and a method to show children the importance of synchronization and order while also serving as a calming exercise. It was brilliant. As the day continued we started learning more and more about each other’s projects. The passion of every volunteer blossomed as each member described their vision for their activities: Jeromie sitting in the corner on his laptop trying to translate English phrases of photography and design into Arabic, Paulina talking about the importance of logic and having fun in the classroom, and Caitlin describing her passion for inner-peace with the children. Seeing so much love, dedication, and preparation from fellow volunteers was truly inspiring!
After breakfast, we got a chance to sit down with our teachers for a couple of hours. I am paired up with Leila, a spirited teacher from Homs. She was eager to show me the classroom, where we were joined by Shifaa, who is also a teacher and Leila’s classroom neighbor during the scholastic year. Shifaa made sure to mention that Leila had some children that were “مميزين” (extraordinary). Leila, smiling, nodded her head with pride. The rest of the conversion included a discussion of what the teachers thought the children needed help with the most, how happy they were to be a part of the Jusoor organization, and was followed by some curious questions about my field of study, chemical engineering.
While today was the first day without some of the members who were placed in Jarahiye, everything seemed to go back to normal on the way back. With the staple George vs Thulasi bickering discussions, Avo, Kiersten, and Anushe jamming out to some Drake song I’ve never heard of before, Hovsep trying to organize the troops, Jeromie complaining about “this generation” never being able to focus, and Gianluca sitting in the back corner reading about the conflict history of the region, all felt right again. As I reflect on the first week of this program, I cannot but emphasize how lucky I am to be part of such a dynamic, thoughtful, and engaging group of volunteers and teachers. I have learned so much about the Syrian refugee situation through this first week of training. I have learned so much about my fellow volunteers, their dreams, their dedication, and their goals. And finally, I am starting to learn so much more about myself. I cannot wait to see what the upcoming weeks hold!