Friday, 7 July 2017

Language Barriers

By Naima Thompson

One of my biggest anxieties in preparing for this trip to Gaziantep was the language barrier. On my last visit Theresa and I stayed in a local hotel and struggled with communication since no one spoke English. We decided to check out an American hotel and soon realized no one spoke English there either and that google translate would become our closest ally. Although our day to day experiences were struggles concerning the Turkish language, I knew working with the children would be about Arabic, since they are, after all, from Syria. Whether Turkish or Arabic, we were going to face a language barrier either way..

Luckily for us, we had some volunteers who would translate Arabic/English for us. I must admit that even though we had the translators, the issues surrounding class management were beyond language barriers. I found myself standing in awe and in silence looking keenly at the behaviour of the children and couldn’t help but wonder if their back stories influenced their current aggression with each other. There could be some truth in that assumption but I also quickly confirmed that children operate based on the boundaries set for them. Once I set mine, they were able to follow through with the expectations. They do have back stories, like all of us, and are governed by their abilities to cope with their situations but, in the end, they all want guidance and boundaries and expectations set for them.

The children love when we arrive each day. Their cheers and excitement are the indicators of a happiness that we bring to their lives. The activities ranging from English Language to Drama and to Arts and Crafts stimulates their creativity and keeps them wanting more each day. The activity of the friendship bracelet really stands out as a tangible example of tapping into a consciousness of self-worth and value. The light in their eyes as the completed bracelet is fastened to their wrist is indescribable and immeasurable. No amount of language barriers could alter that priceless reaction. The process requires individual tenacity as well as support and help from a friend. I believe our theme rang through this week in many many ways and particularly in this friendship bracelet activity. And so the question after week one is: is the impact we are having on these children’s experience affected by the challenge of communication?

Our Hotel: Ali Bey Konagi
Our Taxi Driver
That question has a loaded answer which involves more than our team and the kids we are trying to help. So many entities within the Gaziantep community are part of this success story. We have received generous discounts and contributions from our hotel, restaurants, taxi drivers, art suppliers and even a local journalist. These offerings have motivated and fueled our energy everyday and the kindness is transferred effortlessly to our beneficiaries. We are truly a community of great people living the experience set out by Necessary Arts to “Help a Friend”. The desire we share to help those in need transcends any language barrier we might face.

Pastel colors from Umit Kaya

Imam Cagdas Restaurant

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