Right now there are about 50 Syrian men and women studying English in small groups, taught and supported by NOIVA Jordan and volunteers from Switzerland, who are spending their winter vacations in the desert instead of the mountains for a change. This time elementary school teacher Janine (31) is one of them.
«Good morning, teacher!» Giggling. Before our second English class the Syrian refugee women in my class made sure to agree on how to greet me appropriately. They are very delighted with my surprise – and their success. Eleven women are now crowded around a table, which is actually way too small, looking at me expectantly. My initial worries as to difficulties with understanding each other quickly dissipate due to these women’s – all neighbors – upbeat, benevolent natures and their very high motivation to learn. The Jordanian volunteers who support our work are incredibly valuable in terms of linguistic comprehension as well as understanding of cultural issues. The latest by the time we play our super fast ‚granola game’, accompanied by a lot of laughter, we have become very fond of each other. I am already looking forward again to tomorrow’s English class.
In the afternoons I am on the one hand occupied with balloons, rubber balls, play dough figurines, bubbles, patty-cake games and songs while playing with the children – and on the other hand with the state of the Syrian families who we visit in their own homes in groups of four or five, together with an interpreter. For me personally this always feels like being thrown in at the deep end. However, we experience incredibly touching moments during our conversations: we talk about the family, the currently difficult circumstances, about the past and the future. There is also plenty of room for play and making music together. And whenever we manage to turn a little girl into a sparkling princess thanks to a new dress, which makes her parents smile or whenever we catch each other cheating during a game of pick-up sticks and break into roaring laughter I feel like I have been given a gift just as much as they have and I realize: it is healthy to swim in the deep water.
The on-site NOIVA team gives us a lot of support with the fantastic work they do and they help us manage our impressions and the partly mixed emotions and many questions. Their enthusiasm, commitment, hope, joy and perseverance are very inspiring and touching to me. Apart from that we are also supported in plentiful ways by our temporary team; one of them teaches us Jordanian folk dances, we prepare our English classes together and we exchange experiences.
It is not much we can give. And yet we give the most valuable we can offer – our time, our empathy and finally ourselves.