Imagine you are forced to leave your country of birth because it’s turned into a warzone nightmare. Imagine you have to flee your country because you or your parents aren’t allowed to practice your religion freely. Imagine you are stripped of your childhood and education because you now have to live at a refugee camp in a foreign country. For many, it may be hard to imagine (especially US citizens), but for some, it’s a harsh reality. In Germany, I volunteered with refugee children and this is what that experience taught me.
We truly take our education for granted.
We complain and moan on about how much homework we have. We cry about how our 8 am class is too early. We yap about how we don’t want to spend hours on campus studying and how we’d rather be doing something more exciting. Yet, we don’t realize how lucky we truly are. Yes, some things about our education system suck, such as sky-high tuition and student loans, but the reality is, we HAVE the freedom to get an education. Up until college, school is completely free (unless you went to a private school).
While in Germany, I met kids from North Africa, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and many other countries.
Because these children were stuck in a refugee camp for periods of time, they didn’t have the freedom to go to school and get a proper education. As volunteers, we spent two hours, two days a week with these children, coming up with activities to stimulate their minds. The activities included math, learning English and German, outdoor games, and arts and crafts. That’s all the education they got. Four hours a week. We knew it wasn’t enough time, but for the kids, it meant everything. A fellow volunteer even mentioned how one little boy was so excited that we assigned him homework and gave him a backpack. I was brought to tears. Even the following week, the boy was excited to show that he’d completed his work!
Pictured: Here a little boy uses a Snapchat filter for the first time.
We underappreciate our stable housing.
Most of us, have a home, whether that be an apartment or house. The roof over our head remains recognizable. It’s home sweet home. We’re able to rest and bathe in privacy. We can be almost positive that the bed we dream in, isn’t going to change very often. For the refugee children living at the camp, well that’s a different story.
One week I’d meet a new kid, the next week, they’d be gone.
Realizing this fact was a somber feeling. It was somber because they weren’t going to their home sweet home, they were usually just being transferred to different municipalities. This was a big reason as to why the children couldn’t have an education they could count on. More often than not, I would try not to get too attached to a kid because I was afraid I’d never see them again. That proved to be true more than once, and I was only a volunteer for four months. Still, I always tried my best to make their world a little brighter with the limited time I was given.
Pictured: The refugee children have a little celebration filled with snacks and fun.
The very last week I volunteered I met a little girl that’d change my life forever.
Her name was Fatima, and she was a six year old from Syria. She understood very little English so the only way we were able to communicate was through drawings and hand-motions. She gave me random hugs and touched my hair as I attempted to teach her basic English with drawings. Little did she know, that interaction would change the way I thought about communication forever. That interaction taught me that you don’t have to completely understand a person to UNDERSTAND them. Know what I mean? Many times, people are so judgemental about the things they don’t understand. They judge other people’s culture, religion, and way of life, just because it’s foreign to them. I see this every day here in the United States. It makes me wonder, would they feel the same way if they attempted to have a conversation trying to just understand one another? If instead of defending or arguing, they’d just teach and listen, could peace be made? Could we come to understand that not everybody has to be the same to get along? In an ideal world, maybe. Of course, that’s all wishful thinking coming from an empath like myself. I’d just like to thank little Fatima for teaching me something so grand. God, I hope she’s okay.