The learning group project «learn2live» is going to the next round: some of the participants have moved on, some have been added – the team of learning coaches also keeps growing! Here is our update by Swiss project leader Johanna (32).
«learn2live» has been around for nine months already! The project has been growing continuously to a group of presently six female and three male learning coaches responsible for about 90 children all in all, most of whom are between 9 and 13 years old. Starting with the new school year in August some of the children could be placed into the UNICEF school, which is a great success for us, as, after all, «learn2live» is supposed to act as a bridge for children who have either fallen behind or have never caught up in the first place. We are happy for every single one of those brand new students. There are still thousands of refugee children here in Jordan who fall through the cracks and miss out on a valuable time in their lives to learn. We are relentlessly working towards our goal, which still is and has always been to provide support for as many as possible of them.
One recent highlight was a camp for all the learning groups. Over 50 children and their learning coaches participated. It was a challenge to organize this week, as things work very differently here in Jordan as opposed to Europe! One example: a few days before the camp was supposed to take place we were casually told that the reserved premises were going to be used for another event. We had to look for something else. But where to find a place for 50 kids in such a short time? The solution was handed to me on a silver platter that very day: A Center for Development and Training opened their doors for us. Their premises were excellent: a big room with a screen, a smaller room, a kitchen, an outdoor area for games – and all of this, so I was told, for a „mere“ 150 Dinar (approx. 210 Swiss francs) per day! This amount exceeded our budget by far. After I talked to the director about our work and explained the situation, however, he was suddenly willing to let us use the premises for free! This was just one of the small miracles we experience in our work every day – despite any strains and challenges. Even if a lot of perseverance and tenacity is often required, in the end there is (almost) always a way.
The learning groups’ camp turned out to be a great success for everyone involved. The anticipation was so great that every day the children arrived ahead of time at the agreed-upon bus stop. This is even more astounding when you take into account that punctuality in the Middle East is interpreted quite differently than in Switzerland. By no means did the students want to miss any of the announced field trips! We spent the first two days in the nearby hills, where the kids could climb trees and make swings, among other things. This was followed by three days in the Center. Apart from singing, drama, listening to stories etc. there were daily learning blocks – not only the usual Arabic, English and math lessons, but also instructions on important subjects such as hygiene and health. A dental hygienist came in one day, for example, and taught the kids how to brush their teeth. For some of them it was the first time in their lives they held a toothbrush in their hands! From now on they are expected to keep brushing, in the learning groups and at home. After a week of spending time together the camp ended in a celebratory visit to a zoo and amusement park: the children’s excitement knew no bounds! Most of them had never seen wild animals, such as lions, bears or monkeys, close up and couldn’t get enough of it.
Some of the feedback we received from parents and learning coaches after the camp: the children were more self-assured and are now willing to leave the house without fear. They are more motivated during class and listen to their learning coaches more. Their social behavior in group situations has greatly improved. Many have made new friends. They all loved climbing trees, throwing a frisbee and playing soccer, jump roping and playing water games. The children like brushing their teeth and are using the toothbrushes and toothpaste they were given. They also already started instructing their families. They eat healthier food or at least try to do so. In this area they are also sharing their newly-acquired knowledge with their parents and siblings.
Even the learning coaches discovered new things about themselves: one found out that she loves telling stories in an animated way (traditionally a text is read out loud in a very monotonous way). Another has taken to playing games (it is also not traditional that a teacher plays games with her/his students).
Witnessing passion, joy and freedom grow in the children’s and learning coaches’ lives makes all trials and tribulations seem negligible. It’s all worth it a thousand times! We are looking forward to what lies ahead, to keep learning together … and, of course, to the next camp!