For the last few months I have been looking forward to my start date with Jusoor, a wonderful NGO that focuses on Syrian refugees, and the day finally came this week!
One of the many amazing opportunities that Jusoor offers is their summer volunteer program, which is an opportunity for people from around the world to come to Lebanon and volunteer in Jusoor’s summer camp. I have been lucky enough to be chosen as one of the volunteers for this summer.
It has now been three days since I started working with Jusoor and the amount of passion and love that I have witnessed is unbelievable.
I am one of around thirty volunteers, and I can tell that this group is going to do such wonderful things for the kids. One of the greatest things about our group is that we all have the same passion despite our very different backgrounds. We represent many countries including the USA, Lebanon, Syria, Portugal, Italy, Colombia, Algeria, etc.
And we’re here for the same purpose.
To love. To care. To be positive.
A classroom in Jusoor’s Beirut school
A great reminder in Jusoor’s Jeb Jannine school
The adorable library in Jusoor’s Jeb Jannine school
During these last three days, I have gone through many workshops that have taught me important skills that will be very helpful for this volunteering experience. On the first day we had one of our volunteers, who in fact is an ESL teacher in Minneapolis (!!MN represent!!!) give us some tips about teaching English as a second language.
- Talk slowly
- Use hand gestures
- Always make sure the students understand what you’re saying by following up with them frequently
- Tell them that it’s good and ok to make mistakes
- Encourage them to keep trying
- Remind them to never give up
Just to name a few. ?
On the second day we had a few workshops on leadership, team-building, and implementing sports into the classrooms. It’s amazing how many sports activities you can come up with when you barely have any materials. We also had a discussion on how to deal with kids from different age groups, and how we have to be respectful and aware of the situations that these kids will be coming from.
Some will be in the child labor industry, some won’t have parents that support education, and some just might be tired or hungry from lack of sleep and good nutrition. Because of all those things and more, it is important for us volunteers to always stay positive with them, take their minds off of their worries, and always end the day with something fun.
These kids, just like any kid, deserve to feel free and happy. We are all going to work together towards that.
And finally, on our third day of training, we did peace building workshops and conflict resolution workshops. It is so so necessary for us to teach and encourage the students to build peace with one another. Like I said earlier, they already have enough conflicts as it is, so they should be reminded of peace when they are with us at the schools.
At the end of our third day of training, we walked around the UNHCR refugee camp that one of the three schools is located in. I was speechless as I was walking around. There is no way to describe what it feels like seeing a refugee camp first-hand, and I can only imagine what it feels like to live in one.
This is their reality. It’s not just some news story or some image found on the Internet. This has become their temporary home and although it is something that is quite disturbing and very sad, they still manage to put smiles on their face.
I was walking around very slowly and as I said “Marhaba” to a few kids that were running around or peeking behind the door, they all smiled back. There was one younger woman in particular who was wearing a beautiful pink hijab, that gave me the most genuine and heartfelt smile I have seen in a while.
UNHCR refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley
After walking around this camp, my passion has only increased. I know that my volunteering experience with Jusoor is only for a month, but I can only hope that this experience has a positive impact on the kids.
I believe this is only the beginning for my work with human rights in the Middle East. Thank you Jusoor for giving me this opportunity.
Stay tuned for more updates with Jusoor and the kiddos.