In addition to our summer school in Soran, we’re keeping busy elsewhere in Iraq. Initiative #2 this summer is one of my favorites. That’s because it’s different than anything we’ve done before.
Together with our friends at the EDGE Institute, we’re providing more than 30 refugee boys and girls with a safe and fun environment where they are taught and cared for by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers drawn from the local community in Shariya, a province in Dohuk.
Summer storytime program
Unlike more formal education programs that we sponsor during the regular school year (it’s summer after all) this program focuses on helping students share their own stories by providing them with linguistic and artistic tools, as well as the space and materials to do so. Not only are the children improving their language skills, they are also developing an outlet to express their thoughts and emotions in a safe, creative way that promotes their mental and psychological well-being.
Our program started off with three weeks of lectures and training for staff, volunteers, and other interested community members. Guest lecturers included local authors, journalists, and teachers, like Dr. Gharbi M. Mustafa, University of Dohuk professor and author of What Comes with the Dust Goes With the Wind, and Sabri Silevani, author of Mariama: A Woman from Another Time.
We are now about a month into the program with a nearly equal mix of boy and girls receiving lessons four days a week. The relaxed environment fosters trust among participants that makes it possible for children to open up and share their stories.
Over the next several weeks, we will translate the kids’ stories and writings from Kurdish and Arabic into English to prepare for a presentation and publication of the stories and poems both in Iraq and in the United States.