Here I am, eating freeze-dried dinner in my mosquito net, ‘cooked’ in the microwave in our rustic kitchen next door. There was a mosquito in my little room so I took refuge in the bed under the wonderful pink net! We then figured out that mosquitoes don’t like the cold, and turned the air-conditioning up — it worked! Joslyn and I have the luxury of two adjoining rooms with a little tin door in between. Across the courtyard is the bathroom; a square metal container with a toilet and (yes!) a hand shower nozzle. The trickle of a cold shower is perfectly refreshing for rinsing off the dust and heat of our first full day in the camp.
Today we got to see what iACT is doing here; we walked all around, beginning in the original school building that houses six Little Ripples classrooms, freshly painted white with blue trim for our visit. It was around 9AM when we arrived, just in time to see children lined up holding each other in a hug to wash their hands before their meal. I’m amazed how these very young kids are in their small groups, each eating calmly and mindfully from one big bowl of sweet rice, probably their only meal of the day — sharing without grabbing or pushing at all. Clearly, they’re learning the core lessons of peace, helping, and sharing with each other.
The highlight of the day was observing the teachers and children in their outdoor classrooms, called Ponds. Each one is located in a family dwelling, made of an aluminum roof, concrete floor with woven mats, a blackboard, banners, and two dedicated teachers with their many little students. The enthusiasm of the students and the joy of their teachers brought tears to my eyes — tears of wonder and gratitude that such a program exists in this forsaken place! Although destitute, without any hope of being able to return home, the refugees have created a highly organized, democratic community here. It is with immense respect that they welcome us as InsightLA friends of iACT, which has given the refugees the opportunity, know-how, and trust to lead and develop their Little Ripples preschools and the Refugees United Soccer Academy they long to have.
Around noon, we walked through the camp to see the soccer field. It was so hot that the air singed my nostrils! I’ve never experienced such intense heat before, way over 100 degrees; it’s like being ironed by the heat — I felt strangely calm, thoughts all smoothed out, sipping the now hot water we brought, stopping to rest in bits of shade. We ended the day with a meditation in the Little Ripples courtyard, surrounded by a large, growing circle of murmuring children of all ages inching closer and closer to us, growing more still as we do. Their energy of curiosity, eagerness, and welcome reminds us why we are here.
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