I left the compound this morning a little stressed. Still lots of work to be done everyday in getting the Darfur United squad to Sweden. On the bumpy drive over to refugee camp Goz Amer, I kept trying to get my mind right. Trying to get myself mentally ready for the Little Ripples assessment, and for being present with the teachers and children. I admit, I struggled. My mind kept wandering to Darfur United and the financial obstacles we’re currently facing in actually getting them to Sweden!
Well, all that went away upon arriving at Little Ripples school. Wow! What a sight! I walked around each of the five classrooms, popping my head in the doorway or window, trying not to distract the children or disrupt the teachers. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In one classroom, two teachers were leading a small circle of children through peaceful and relaxing techniques, which included plugging their ears and humming, stretching, and pretending to be trees swaying in the wind and rain falling from the sky. It was incredible and so cute to see the children so engaged. In another classroom, the teachers were sitting on the ground in a circle with the children. They were talking about animals and colors, each child having a turn to tell a short story.
It’s only been two months since we last visited Little Ripples and conducted our Teacher Training III, but what a difference among the children already! They were so much more interactive with me, with each other and with the teachers. Outside, they were laughing, smiling, and playing with each other. In the classrooms they were focused, alert, listening to the teachers and participating in each activity.
It just looked like a real preschool. This sounds strange to say out loud because obviously that’s what we we’ve aspired to do, but when you walk around the camps and you see the existing structures and programs for early childhood education, it does come as a surprise to see Little Ripples thriving in this environment. Little Ripples is incomparable. And while we have always believed in our approach, it’s so amazing to see it come to fruition. To see the teachers, leading the children in all the techniques, games and lessons we developed with them and our Expert Teacher Advisors (ETAs), it is so inspiring and encouraging.
The day began stressful, but this evening, we are over joyed here in Kou Kou, after spending our first day at Little Ripples. Tomorrow, we officially start assessments of children’s health under the guidance of Nathan Jones, from the University of Wisconsin Survey Center, and Oumda’s team of 14 refugee interviewers. The data collection will be tedious, but informative, and we’re hoping it will allow us to scale up Little Ripples and influence the way the international community views and approaches early childhood education in refugee contexts.
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