Monday, 3 April 2017

Return to Jenin

I have just one more day before setting off back to Jenin to continue with the course for teachers in the refugee camp. This is one of the many ways that The Freedom Theatre contributes to the community living in the refugee camp - training teachers to bring more play, listening and peaceful classrooms in a place that is far from peaceful... neither the memories or the current day lives are filled with the harmony and hope that children, all ages,  should experience. In fact one of the families of the children I played with last time at the preschool had their home turned over in the middle of the night as the Israeli Army did one of their raids... of course, they found nothing but distraught young preschooler aged children and their parents. This is a reality, thankfully, that is not mine, and most of you reading this will not have this reality either.

It does make it hard to pitch an inspirational course - how do you meet their reality when I can have no true understanding of it... I can empathise of course... but my reality allows me the time and luxury of being able to experiment with ideas that seldom require taking care of traumatised children because their homes have been raided, or a close relative killed (for many different reasons) etc... as I wrote last time I was there... even sleep is disturbed on an almost nightly basis with the sounds of gunfire, either as a threatening noise or to celebrate a wedding or a prison release...

I need to listen. Listen to their story. To try and understand and to respond to that... so that we have a meaningful dialogue together... that together we can allow the play and learning in their centres to be more child-centred ... that there is more democracy in the classroom in the sense that the children are active participants in their learning. This is something that has never been afforded to the teachers in their childhood... Last time I listened to their stories - of the good and bad of schools and it saddened me how much physical and psychological violence occurred in schools - the teachers being the ones children feared... of course those teachers that showed compassion... that is where it was the easiest to learn.

The coming 1.5 weeks there will be a focus on the third teacher... exploring how the classroom can be like a colleague to the teachers, working together to enable the children's learning, to allow them to be independent and to increase active participation.
I will also take them out on a forest school training day as a follow up to their day where they went out into the forest with a biologist to learn about the nature that surrounds them.

I will be sharing my journey and experience again, as I did last time.
This time I am taking 4 suitcases with me (my daughter is also coming with me) - one suitcase is filled with our clothes... the rest are filled with resources for the course, but mostly rubber boots and raintrousers and rainjackets that friends and family here in Stockholm have kindly donated.
Last time I was in Jenin I saw that the children did not have the right gear... and there is that lovely Swedish rhyming saying "Ingen dålig väder bara dåliga kläder" There is no bad weather only bad clothes. This time when there are puddles the children will be able to jump and splash in them as much as they want... with the right clothes on it doesn't matter if it rains... outdoor play is STILL fun.. maybe even more fun!

As I was packing the jackets I discovered a present in one of the pockets... a screwed up tissue, a hairband and some stones! Essentials for any preschooler pocket!


  1. My warm heart goes out to you and your wonderful efforts in the west bank. After the Darfur genocide we learned so much more about what happened from the children's drawings, apparently by accident. I wish all early childhood teacher training would teach how children can communicate with us via the arts. Drama skits written for individual children's temperaments can be extremely healing. Good luck.

    1. thank you...
      there is always a warm welcome for people who want to donate their time here.
      The Freedom Theatre does an amazing job working with children and young people... to support them through drama and artistic expression... to find their voice, to express their feelings in a safe environment.
      I feel honoured to be a small part of the process.