If I am to share with you my hope for 2020, I must begin with Sharvan. He is an energetic 4-year-old Kurdish boy of Syrian parents. I met him and his mother, Leila, during Little Ripples’ Teacher Training I in August 2019 in Ioannina, Greece. Sharvan attended our trainings too, as there was no other option for childcare in the northern Greece refugee camp of Katsikas.
Sharvan, which means war in his native language of Kurmanji, was born during the ongoing conflict in Syria and was just two-years-old when his family fled the violence. They survived the harrowing and dangerous walk across Turkey, the brutal and risky boat ride to a Greek Island, and were then resettled to camp Katsikas.
Sharvan was quick to react to any situation, many times with fists and yelling, but a big gentle hug dissolved his toughness into curiosity and warmth. Sharvan’s soft green eyes represent a window into his possible future, a future that his mother Leila hopes can be peaceful. Leila is a certified Little Ripples Teacher, but she no longer teaches in the camp. When I met them, they were waiting for their last set of documents in order to make the journey to Germany, where they hoped they could permanently resettle and begin a new life. Recently, I heard they were in transition through Athens to make this happen.
These are the true ripples of iACT. Anywhere she goes, Leila will be a changemaker, a peacebuilder, and a more mindful mother because of graduating from Little Ripples’ Teacher Training I. The Little Ripples Teacher Training and the program in Greece are special for so many reasons. The program is entirely and voluntarily community-led by mothers from places such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Kurdistan, and Congo. They don’t speak the same language and they didn’t know each other before the training. Many of them do not wish to stay in Greece, but are hoping to resettle after the three-to-four year process of receiving asylum. They have different customs and religions. However, they all share a deep desire to harness their collective power in order to create a new future; a future cultivated by themselves and where they are seen, heard, and valued.
In 2020, we must return to complete Teacher Training II and III and develop a core Little Ripples Leadership Team of resettled community members who can celebrate the departure of outgoing teachers and continuously train new, incoming ones.
In Greece, the Little Ripples program structure will continue to shift and change over time. This is what is so special and revolutionary about the program. It is truly community-led. It meets a need identified by the community. It offers tools, resources, and rituals that support building inner and outer peace. Little Ripples is truly a seed being planted in refugee families and children who may end up all over Europe.
With more than 70 million people on the move worldwide, Sharvan and Leila’s story is no exception. He, like so many in his generation, is growing up in displacement where all too often strengths are dismissed and futures buried. Leila, like myself, hopes that her children’s lives will be peaceful and meaningful. Our small yet mighty team may not be able to reach all 70 million people, but we can return to Greece and offer a place of peace, play, and safety to the children who are there. They will then bring these values and skills to their new communities once resettled. Once they are grown, they will lead our world from a place of empathy, compassion, and hope, the seeds once planted by Little Ripples.