Having studied human rights as part of my master’s course, I found it frustrating when my classes covered cases of human rights violations and issues with migration but I found I had no real experience in any of these areas. Partially to ease the frustration and develop my own experiences while hoping I could do something positive for someone else, I decided to volunteer in Lebanon with SB Overseas. I have to say, my experience here has been far from what I expected it to be.
“I work with Syrian refugee children in informal education centres to catch them up on the years of schooling some of them have missed. We want to avoid a ‘lost generation’, and it’s the organisation’s aim to use education as a means to empower those that come to our centres.”
This is the way that I commonly explain my volunteering experience to friends and family, and it gives an image of an experience that’s tough on the heart, but nothing could be further from the truth. Of course we come across some tough challenges, but I did not come to a place desolate of compassion and joy that needed me to be a light for others; I came to this place only to be filled with the light and joy of the children that I have the pleasure of teaching, and, perhaps more importantly, of breaking barriers with. To give an example:
I made octopus mobiles with my kindergarten class, as they were learning about the letter O and while our aim at SB is to educate, education is not restricted to academia alone and we encourage our students to be as creative as they can be. I found myself running into a very expected problem; the language barrier. The young children wanted different faces on their octopus but lacked the English vocabulary to explain, as I lacked the Arabic vocabulary to understand. Below was our solution:
It’s simple, but reinforces a lesson that I’ve learnt in my time here: no barrier is too difficult to cross if we work together to cross it. This is something I will carry through in all I do in the future, and hope I can show others is always possible. I thought SB’s “give hope” was meant only for those we worked with, but when volunteering, it’s as much for those giving as for those receiving.