Summer Volunteer Program 2019: “I am so happy you are here. Let’s start!” 

Day 4: Monday 22 July, 2019

Danica Harootian, United States

Today is the start of the program! This group of volunteers is prepared, nervous, excited, curious…all of the above. How many students will be in my class today? Will they understand my mixture of English and Arabic? Will they enjoy the activities and learn something new?

We rush into the school, gather our materials for painting, games, and more. I write the date and my name on the whiteboard. I also write the schedule for each day – sports, art, science and peace education. I take a deep breath and take a moment to look at the empty desks in front of me. Today is the start, but I know every day to be a kind of restart. In previous teaching experience, sometimes every 10 minutes in a classroom needs a restart button if an activity doesn’t work, or technology fails, or if we run out of crayons. In my personal life, sometimes a restart contains both sorrow and joy, but I believe that every new day brings new strength.

For Jusoor students, how many times have they had to restart? What have they faced in their young lives so far that caused their families to restart, redefine and persevere?

During our orientation last week, Dr. Alexandra Chen provided excellent, helpful training to provide context on students who may have post-traumatic stress disorder or experience toxic stress. Alongside the program’s goal of creating a safe environment for students and an engaging educational experience, I hold tight to the goal of building positive memories to help outbalance those set in negativity or fear.

For many in this group of volunteers, perhaps it’s the start of a career in education or the beginning of new meaningful friendships. It’s a start of what we hope are great partnerships with our co-teachers. A period of three short weeks holds the potential for all of us to cultivate a deeper connection with Jusoor’s mission, one that can take new shape when we return to our home communities, workplaces, universities and more. Jusoor’s teachers start each day of the academic year with these students; they care for and engage with students and their families for a longer period of time. For the next three weeks, I feel incredibly humbled and grateful to start each day with this group.

The students run into the room. “Good morning! Sabah al-kheir.” I smile, and they smile back. “I am so happy you are here. Let’s start!”

Danica is volunteering at Jusoor’s educational centers in Lebanon during July and August 2019 as part of the Summer Volunteer Program. You can read more posts by our volunteers here.

Posted on July 23, 2019 in Summer Program 2019

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