Before I left the UK I read a shocking article about Syrian refugee children in Lebanon taking their own lives because they have lost hope. Like many I have wondered how I can do more to help. The Jusoor summer volunteer programme provides an unparalleled opportunity to do just that. Individuals from around the world come to Jusoor schools to co-teach with local teachers, many of whom are Syrian refugees themselves. The emphasis is on combining fun with learning and practical exercises, as the children have studied hard during the year. The volunteer programme is guided by Jusoor’s ultimate aim: that the children eventually be in a position to be admitted to Lebanese schools once they have caught up on missed schooling and a place becomes available.
I begin each teaching shift with a 10-minute yoga lesson, something the kids had never experienced before. We take some deep breaths first with our eyes closed as the children count along with me. There’s always some giggling as we ‘Om’ together, and then it’s a medley of stretches, twists and balances – and handstands, of course.
After yoga we turn to the planned activities for the day, which range from a project about the different seasons, dancing along to ‘JustDance’, teaching the kids about static using a balloon and their own hair, to building bridges using straws and cups. The last activity was one of my favourites: to see the children work together as a team, not giving up when the towers kept collapsing, and then achieve their goal was the most wonderful feeling.
The children are truly amazing: bright, energetic, cheerful, and very affectionate, despite all they have been through and continue to endure. My hand is sore at the end of the day through the countless ‘high-fives’ I exchange with them.
I must also pay tribute to the remarkable teachers at the school in Jib Janine, in particular my fantastic co-teachers Ghouroub and Leila, ably supported by the impressive Jusoor staff. Their energy and dedication to the children is humbling to witness as well as being an inspiration.
And that, I think, is what Jusoor is about: inspiring as well as providing the children with a different perspective for their childhood and future. I am honoured that I have been able to play a very small part in achieving that goal.