Refugees are you and me

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This statement has been on my mind as I think about these wonderful people always being labeled as ‘refugees’. Why can’t they be labeled teacher, doctor, business owner, chef, scientist, etc. Why do they have to be defined by their situation and not by who they were before they were forced to flee their homeland?

With thanks to @RNalletamby at Teach21C

TEACH21C

Last night, while I was carrying out research into my latest university assignment, focusing on learning spaces in refugee camps, I came across this powerful and emotive article.

THE ONLY SCARY THING ABOUT SYRIA’S REFUGEES IS THAT THEY’RE JUST LIKE US

Refugees are people just like us, with dreams and hopes for the future.

We need to do more, to help make their dreams and hopes are reality!

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Which space? Pick a space! Any space!?

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-2-20-24-pmI am trying very hard to choose two out of six learning spaces for my assignment. Each space is important. Each space is interesting. Each space would work well within a refugee camp context. The spaces are all very much connected.  How do I pick the right ones or the best ones? Are any of the spaces going to be more beneficial within the camp than another? They all have merit.

When working with young children who are sometimes reluctant to talk or write, I go back to the true and tried basics of the following questions…

                         WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? HOW?

Who are the children I am trying to connect with?                                                          What can I do to improve their learning?                                                                                Where will I get access to information that can guide me in my thinking?                       When will the children be able to go to a learning space within their camp?                   Why am I not doing more to interact with these children?                                                         How do I make a difference when I am comfortable living and learning on the other side of the world?                                                                                                                      How can I help to make a change, no matter how small, to the way these children see the world around them?                                                                                                                How do I engage these children in 21st Century learning to prepare them for life beyond the confines of their camp?                                                                                           How do I give them a voice?                                                                                         How do I show them that I care?

Which one will I choose?

Personal Space   eSpace   Group, Collaborative, Cooperative Space                         Classroom and School Space   Beyond the Classroom Space   Liminal Space

Alexandria, Greece

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I was struggling to choose a refugee camp to focus on for my assignment but in the end the camp chose me, thanks to a beautiful four year old boy named Muhammed Ali. After having ‘met’ Muhammed while doing my research, I immediately wanted to learn more about where he lived, what the conditions were like, what sort of facilities were in the camp and what opportunities did he have to play, to learn, to be creative.

Alexandria in Greece is where I have found my refugee camp, Muhammed’s home for the last four years. So much needs to be done for all the children in Alexandria. It is a camp that has drawn the attention of some wonderful organisations and people who are doing amazing things there to help not only the children but the adults also. They are working to do their best to make these people feel settled for the time they have to spend in the camp, to give them access to basic necessities of food, shelter, water etc, to provide some simple educational resources and to help them with the process of relocating to and often reuniting with their loved ones in another country.

After reading of the the work being done there, I have been inspired to think about my part in helping to make a difference. I have been influenced by Teachers Without Borders to choose their Child-Friendly Spaces Initiative and I have made connections with other organisations doing similar work. I have been thinking of ideas that could be implemented in Alexandria to help Muhammed and all the young children at his camp. I would like them to have access and opportunities to flourish in Learning Spaces.

I am now trying to do “small things in a big way” Napoleon Hill, Writer, 1883-1970.

Happiness is upon me

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I am beginning to formulate my own ideas for a Vision and Mission statement as part of my assignment. In everything that I am formulating I…

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As I research about refugees and their plight around the world my previous post was filled with sadness. This post is filling me with hope as I look at the work a myriad of wonderful organisations and people are doing to make a difference.

Education is paramount in all the organisations. Each has a very definite direction on how to ensure refugee children receive quality education, often despite less than favourable conditions.

Below I have included general statements from the organisations with which I have made a connection. I am now looking more specifically at education and becoming inspired by what they are doing.

I’m getting my ‘happy’ on!

This wonderful video of Syrian children in Za’atari Camp affirms that despite the sadness and often overwhelming sense of despair these children might be feeling, they can also still get their ‘happy’ on!

Hope this makes you get your ‘happy’ on too?

Teachers Without Borders Mission and Vision states… Teachers Without Borders connects teachers to information and each other in order to make a difference in their communities — on a global scale.  Our tagline:  Teachers.  Leaders.  Worldwide.

International Rescue Committee “Better Aid” Strategy states… The world’s more than 60 million displaced people, the highest number ever recorded, require more than “aid as usual.” Their growing and increasingly complex needs mandate a transformation—a creative rethinking—in the global humanitarian response. The International Rescue Committee has taken on this challenge.

Refugee Support Europe Mission states… We aim to improve the livelihoods and outcomes for refugees by prioritising dignity and co-operation. We believe that if we are going to achieve that we need to adhere to high professional and ethical standards. Human dignity is right at the heart of our activities.

UNHCR Primary Purpose states… is to safeguard the rights and well-being of people who have been forced to flee. Together with partners and communities, we work to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country. We also strive to secure lasting solutions. 

Sadness overwhelms me

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I have spent many hours today reading about refugee camps all around the world.

Every single one overwhelms me with sadness and despair.

This story in Idomeni is one example of the horror these children are enduring to try and move out of the camps and meet up with family or to try and change their circumstances for a better future.

I cannot comprehend the horrors they are enduring.

I can only hope and pray that they receive the support, care and ultimately the love they so deserve and should indeed expect, as a human right.

FOOTNOTE I have just come across this article in The Guardian that less than three weeks after the previous report (linked above), Idomeni Camp has been shut down. Many are now living in worse conditions. Many are now trying more than ever to flee. Many more are now disappearing.

Sadness and despair overwhelms me once more.

I wonder where all the children have gone? I wonder if they are safe?

FOOTNOTE  3 November 2016    I now know that some families are safe. Thank you to my fellow student at Teach21C for her link to this video.

Fundamentals of education

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Education is an essential right, which permits each person to receive instruction and to blossom socially. The right to an education is vital for the economic, social and cultural development of all societies. Taken from  HUMANIUM – Together for Children’s Rights 

The importance of a child being able to learn is paramount, anywhere in the world. When we realise how many children do not have access to education because they are refugees, we should take a stance to make a difference. Children who are fortunate to perhaps have a school in their camp may not have the possibility to learn in a safe environment or have suitable resources. How do we improve their learning? How do we engage with children in less than desirable circumstances when we are comfortable living and learning on the other side of the world?

Watching Clouds over Sidra certainly made me gather my thoughts about the expectations and hopes these children have for a brighter future. They are living in camps under difficult circumstances and having a safe place to go to be able to learn is their basic right. They need to be able to learn in a camp in the same way they would learn in their homeland.

So what do I consider to be the fundamentals of education for a child in the future? The exact same things for my own children as for refugee children. Their circumstances and environment may be different but that should have no bearing on their expectations to receive a quality education.

CHILDREN NEED…

  • a safe environment where they are welcomed, valued, included
  • to have their voice heard
  • access to appropriate resources
  • to be respected by their peers and their educators
  • to have education be inclusive of boys and girls
  • opportunities to be creative in all forms of the arts
  • models of positive mindsets
  • the ability to achieve success as an individual
  • open communication between school and home
  • to have fun

CHILDREN DON’T NEED…

  • their success measured only by standardised tests
  • bullying of any kind from adults or children
  • to be exposed to any form of discrimination
  • models of negative mindsets
  • lack of opportunities to be able to succeed

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOR NEW LEARNING SPACE DESIGNS INCLUDE…

  • children being part of the design process
  • physical spaces to be mobile to cater for different needs, situations, circumstances
  • consideration given to wellbeing programs
  • availability and access to up-to-date technology
  • suitable funding for technology and resources
  • opportunities for connections to be made locally and globally
  • ability to develop empathy by children and adults to all learning/living situations
  • exposure to creative ways to teach and learn

The Six Learning Spaces, as documented in an earlier post, would all have valuable insights in helping to establish these and many more considerations for learning in a refugee camp. Developing an eCoP/CoP would be paramount in the success of any educational programs being implemented.

Children can develop their understanding of their Personal Space and their Liminal Space. They can be in a class/school environment that facilitates quality learning. They can have opportunities to work in a group, collaborative and cooperative setting. They can develop their skills and exposure to technology to be a 21st century eLearner. Finally, they can have the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere beyond their camp to gain further experiences and insights to compliment their educational needs.

Now to unwrap each child’s gift of learning and education.

Muhammed and me

img_3934Today, as I searched the www for inspiration, I ‘met’ a delightful young boy, four year old Muhammed Ali.

His mother says, “Yes I know, it is a big name and a weighty name. I think that it will help give him a strong personality.” Gaili Aziz, 33, Alexandreia, Greece.

Muhammed is certainly displaying this personality trait. He was only 5 days old when his mother fled with him and his two siblings from Syria. His father and sister are in Germany. He knows no other life other than the camp in Greece. Three days a week he goes to a Safe Space for children, set up by the International Rescue Committee. He learns and participates in things we take for granted, things that our children often do on a daily basis.

Gaili goes on to say, “The very best thing he has learned there is not to rely on your muscles but to use your brain.”

“I am not super strong, I am super smart!” Muhammed Ali, 4, Alexandreia, Greece.

I have been struggling to make a connection to a refugee camp but in spending time searching the web today, I think Muhammed found me. His infectious smile and his love of music and dancing made me want to learn more about his camp in Alexandria. And I love that at four, he knows he is “super smart“.

I want to use the creative arts to enhance their learning and seeing him dancing around with the phone to his ear made me smile. Smiling is not what you usually do when researching refugee camps. I was happy to read that he attends school three days a week and I am now thinking of a connection to a Teachers Without Borders initiative.

In linking my ideas to a learning space, I think Muhammed is well and truly learning how to be comfortable in his Personal Space and his Liminal Space. I now need to decide which spaces I want to further explore.

I think his mother named him well. She says, “He warms our hearts.” He has warmed mine today.

I’d like you to meet Muhammed too.

A future learning space

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SO… I seem to be overwhelmed with ideas and choices at the moment with my next assignment. I need to choose one of the nine Teachers Without Borders initiatives. I need to choose two learning spaces that the initiative can work within.

However…

I was first drawn to girls’ education but now feel I want to create spaces for all children.

I was drawn to Nauru as it is on our doorstep but after some information shared by a fellow student (our wonderful eCoP working together) I feel they are quite well-equipped and now I am looking further afield.

I am drawn to young children, the early years of school.

I am drawn to thinking of creative spaces as I love all things involved with the arts.

I am still drawn to the liminal space but I can see all the learning spaces being relevant in this situation and need to choose, or work within my limitations, to get this assessment done in an achievable manner.

I am drawn to technology which is a huge mind shift for me as I am the least technological person I know (my children will back up that statement 100%!!)

I am drawn to simple ideas of collecting and donating arts materials to send to children in a refugee camp.

I am trying to draw on ideas of how to make this work when I am a casual teacher, not attached to one school in particular.

SO… I seem to need  to stop ‘drawing’ and start ‘doing’.

What would be in your bag?

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-4-57-45-pmI asked my children this question after dinner this week…

“What would you pack in your bag if you had to quickly leave everything behind and flee from your home?”

11 year old son answered…”clothes, food, iPad, books, laptop, something to remember like a trophy.”

15 year old daughter answered…”clothes, food, photos from home, phone, iPad, charger, leather jacket.”

We then looked at this link to the International Rescue Committee’s “What’s in my bag?” It gave my children and I a powerful understanding and emotional reaction to what it would be like to have to flee your home and then be labelled a refugee. It made them realise that they focused on quite material things. Were they really important? What else should they have considered? Would we all be together as we fled? Should we have packed more?

My son was particularly surprised at the hair care and skin items that Iqbal, 17, from Kunduz, Afghanistan chose to take. And then we read his story…

“I want my skin to be white and hair to be spiked — I don’t want them to know I’m a refugee. I think that someone will spot me and call the police because I’m illegal.”

As I continue to research about the worldwide refugee crisis, there are many stories that break my heart but they have also allowed for enlightening conversations with my children, giving us all a greater awareness of what is happening.

It is also encouraging us to talk about what we can do. As a family we are now trying to learn, share and inspire to make a difference.

Catalysts of change and hope

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“…the notion that the label ‘refugee’ shouldn’t limit what we aim for. It may not always be possible, and at times our plans may be interrupted due to the harsh realities of life in Za’atari.  But, by creating educational connections to their passions, interests, hopes, and dreams before becoming a refugee, I feel we help children to become invested in their future.” Kayri Shanahan, The Learning Space, EDFD459, 2016.

My new assignment for the unit I am studying has me connecting with Teachers Without Borders. This organisation does amazing work throughout the world, educating children in areas that are far from their homelands, sometimes under conditions that are less than satisfactory and often without many of the resources that we can access in our classrooms.

The above quote, from a fellow student and mentor in my unit, resonated with me as I believe it is important for these children to not purely be known as refugees but as students and future leaders. It is imperative that we connect with them, to let their voices be heard, for their stories to be shared and for them to be given as much opportunity as possible to pursue their passions.

While reading about the nine initiaves that Teachers Without Borders work within, I am realising that we can make a difference to these children. We can engage and interact with them through technology and we can give them hope that people do care and are eager to be involved in their learning.

They are children who are eager to LEARN SHARE and INSPIRE.