Displacement and Belonging
Joy. Complete joy. Mixed in there is also a little awe. I feel like I need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not still dreaming from last night. We did it. They did it!
There are now 17 Little Ripples teachers in camp Katsikas and Ioannina, Greece. They are from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Syria, Kurdistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They speak five languages and today they committed to creating peace in their community. They raised their hands and looked into each other’s eyes and smiled with each commitment:
“I commit to creating a safe and fun environment, knowing that learning will happen.”
“I commit to nonviolence – physical and emotional – each and every day at Little Ripples.”
“I commit to serving children ages 3-6.”
“I commit to meeting weekly with this group to learn and grow.”
“I commit to respecting each other, modeling positive relationships with one another for our children and our community.”
We all raised our hands. We all committed. On Monday afternoon at 3:30pm, Little Ripples Katiskas and Little Ripples Ioannina will open their doors to children. These programs are entirely community-led. They made every decision from which day to run the program to what hours and to who will be on the teaching team each day. The teams are diverse, and yet they have committed to working together.
This was my first Little Ripples Teacher Training graduation. And it was more than I could have imagined. Everyone clapped for each other. We took photos with my phone, photos with their phones, photos with everyone’s phones! Leila, Soura, Sahira, and Nissrin brought cakes for everyone. We shared tea, and of course, there were children!
It is hard to find words to express the honor and privilege I felt as I shook each woman’s hand, hugged them, and kissed their cheeks. The diversity in the number of kisses to give each woman–one, two, three, or none!–is a testament to how many cultures are represented among our Little Ripples teachers. It’s a reminder that anyone, from anywhere can find themselves displaced.
But these women are no longer displaced. They have found a renewed sense of belonging among each other. They may not stay in Greece. In fact, many will move on to a third country; several have just since my last visit in March. But wherever they move, they will take with them the knowledge they have gained, the dignity and empowerment they have recovered from within themselves, and the purpose that comes with being part of and serving their community.
Trust in the process. Trust in the modeling before the explanation. Trust in the people. Trust in the children, and they will trust you.
If there is anything that can foster community between people and across cultures, it is sharing a meal and a cup of tea. While we do that, we will also be sure to sprinkle in some early childhood development, mindfulness, and games!
Throughout my time in Nduta, Mandy was my right-hand man, functioning as a patient facilitator, doing his best to accurately translate everything that the Academy coaches wanted to express, and doing it all with positive energy and enthusiasm.