More than a Project

Authored by:
Zeina Al Karaki

Zeina Al Karaki

One of the most rewarding experiences a person can have is volunteering with little children. Especially when the volunteering involves interacting with the children, building rapport with them and their teachers.

I am talking about “Adopt a School” community engagement project that we organize every semester with our CIEE Amman students. 
If you are an educator, you can particularly understand the importance of improving school climate and know the significance of making the school a salubrious and a welcoming place for the little learners. 

With all the advancement in the education and instructional technology we read about and implement in our day-to-day life with our students, we forget that in some less fortunate schools around us the bare minimum requirements for a decent educational environment is lacking.We started our “Adopt a School” project at a public school in Om Sendianeh, a rural area outside the capital Amman. The number of students in this school is forty-three students from grade one to grade six. The students are from the same town and from some neighboring towns.

The commute to the school isn’t an effortless or a smooth one. As the public-school system in Jordan lacks the transportation component, the parents must bring their children to school, or children walk to school on their own. For children living close to the school it is a challenging task that still poses a threat in rainy and foggy days, however for other students living farther it means walking around one hour every single day in order to get to the school. Some of the students didn’t own jackets, boots or just a decent outfit to wear for their school days. The principal of the school told us that these little children are so committed to coming to school every day. She said that for them going to school despite of all the difficulties they face is still a better option than staying at home and doing nothing or helping their parents in their daily routines.
At the beginning of our project, we talked to the children and asked them what they would like to have in their school? Their answers were staggering and unusual from little children. Some of them asked us to fix the broken doors of their classrooms, fix the bathrooms, paint the classrooms with nice colors, bring them curtains, get new boards instead of the broken ones and some balls and toys. Looking at the playground of the school, which shouldn’t be a playground according to the simplest and basic safety standards you can tell that these little children are deprived from one of their basic rights, that is the right to play.

We rolled our sleeves up and started the physical work which was mostly painting and installing a fence on the school wall to ensure that the children will not jump over the walls and hurt themselves, we outsourced for some of the tasks that needed longer time and construction workers or electricians to finish. And we still need to work on other issues in the school during the coming semester.

The most affective and heartening part of this experience was interacting with the children, those little ones were eager to meet people, people from different cities, and people from different cultures and continents. They were eager to make friends, play, chat and laugh with no reluctance or second thoughts. All the barriers faded away in the presence of their spontaneity and innocence.

The enthusiasm the children showed for meeting our students was outstanding. It was a reminder for us of how we can bring diversity and joy into their doorsteps by volunteering in their school. The curiosity in their eyes to talk to our students, learn about them and play with them, despite of the language barrier and the cultural differences was unprecedented. The children and the students didn’t only paint the walls of the school together but in their interactions formed a beautiful mosaic of gracious individuals who fitted together naturally.

This school project and similar projects are the motivation for us at the CIEE Amman to continue with what we have started, adopt as much schools as we can and bring diversity, friendships and joy to the children. We will continue with this school and many other schools to come.

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