To Be Heard is to Unbury Your Own Empowerment
This is my third trip to Greece with iACT. Each trip our intention is to listen to refugee and asylum-seeking community members, to see them and to walk beside them at this moment in their journey. As Abdarahim shared with us, “We do not get our time here back.” My hope is that the time we spend working together toward a common goal—a better future for all of our children and community—will also create peace and joy in their hearts and daily lives.
Eight people have surfaced as part of a team of Lead Teachers here in camp Katiskas, outside the quiet mountain town of Ioannina, Greece. They completed Little Ripples Teacher Training I in August with Joslyn Hitter, Deb Senior, and me, and have been with us each and every moment of learning, sharing, and expressing for the past three days. We also have seven new Assistant Teachers who have been participating in the program who wanted to become Little Ripples certified.
The last several months have been a challenge. The program moved from an outside playground area where it was well attended, to an indoor space in a large, clunky, metal and pretty much unwelcoming former airport hangar. With the onset of chilly evenings with temperatures dropping to 25 or 30 degrees, attendance shrunk. Additionally, someone recently broke into our space and stole all our program materials, and left the place dirty and dusty. iACT’s Founder Gabriel Stauring explains that these are the battles communities on the move face every day—“uncertainty, the sense of powerlessness, and yet the strength to get up every morning and keep going.”
Today, we spent time in an amazing space reconnecting with one another, listening, and sharing. As we spoke, I felt their need to be heard. It’s tangible as they share their successes and also their struggles. To be heard is to unbury your own empowerment; to find the space between giving up and moving forward; to be part of something greater. Yes, we discussed child development, play-based learning, daily routines, identifying emotions, and the program pillars peace, helping, and sharing. After lunch, we sat in a circle with the eight team members who had been teaching and coordinating the program since August. This is what we heard:
“I learn from the students, and they learn from us.” – Islam
“All the kids, from all over, they learn from each other. We come together. United.” – Nasrin
“I knew the words peace, helping, sharing. But I didn’t know their meaning until being with iACT.” – Emmanuel
“There’s no other activity for the women, from all the different countries, to come together. To create a shared community, a shared responsibility.” – Abdarahim
"Hi friends. I wanted to thank all the iACT team in the world starting with that of the United States followed by that of Chad, that of Tanzania and that of Greece including those who work with iACT in the four corners of the world because they are whole to help...
“iACT because this organization focuses on community empowerment within refugee camps in order to build long term sustainability instead of using the classic top down approach that reinforces the power dynamic between the West and refugees.”
I am very passionate about helping others and I want to make a difference through my work with iACT.