Tuesday, 4 July 2017

A New World Experience

by Naima Thompson
We arrived in Gaziantep on Saturday July 1st with a day and a half before meeting our students. Help a Friend is the theme for this outreach workshop and in that spirit we agreed to meet with Jehad and his team the night before so we can help each other understand more clearly what the next few days would entail.

So on a warm and humid Sunday night under a fig tree, we all sat with servings of chai from a local street restaurant, chatting about the excitement of the program. There was Captain Fawaz who would pick us up at midday to take us over to the center, Jehad and his wife Furat who would not be able to join us but who were instrumental in setting this connection up and the director of the center Ms Ruba. They listened to Natasha, Theresa and I tell them about the possibilities for the workshops and they cleared up some details about the logistics needed for success. Once we exchanged the necessary information we bade them farewell and off they went.

The next morning over three types of cheese, olives, breads, vegetables and a pan fried omelets Natasha expressed her usual dream of missing a flight which was a direct indicator of her anxiety. She was not alone. Once Captain Fawaz dropped us off at New World Academy, Ms Ruba greeted us and we started to explore the various options for spaces for the workshops which would consist of all the children for the first hour and a split between drama and ELL for the last two hours. Like most outreach trips before we are told one number of participants and then we encounter almost double.

As we sat on the racetrack themed carpeted floor waiting for the children to finish lunch, a curious Syed of maybe ten years peeped his head into the room. Upon encouragement he entered and soon enough we realized that we had a student leader whose English was pretty advanced. Very slowly the others trickled in. The first activity took place in a room whose air conditioner abandoned its users. Almost fifty of us worked through several activities with the noise level of 100 decibels. This was the first time since China, almost seven years ago, I was leading a workshop where I did not speak the language and the participants followed translated instructions. Back then I had maybe thirteen high school students. Today was almost 50 primary students ages 3 to 11.

I found the children to be engaging and ready to participate in all the activities. Some activities ran smoother than others and once Natasha and I divided the group for the second hour we had better success.  In drama the older group played boys against girls in a stepping stone competition using A4 paper to walk their team across the room. There was much excitement as they all struggled to keep their feet off the floor and use each other as support so as to not fall. Like most groups of children, the girls were very focused and well-disciplined and the boys were rambunctious and rowdy. Needless to say the girls won!

Natasha will share her teaching experiences with her language learners in a separate post. Theresa did a good job capturing the day’s work on camera so you’ll see her perspective coming through the pictures and videos in all the blog posts.

At the end of the day the boys sat with us, sharing their cheese sticks and laughing at me trying to but failing miserably at getting a wifi connection on my laptop. I must say that I am intrigued by them. I would like to know each of their stories. But for now I’ll settle for knowing that Syed has been at the center for four years and any English he knows was all learned right there at this vibrant New World Academy.  Help a Friend in Action

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