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Training WITH our Friends

By Sara-Christine Dallain

These past four days, Felicia, Oumda, and I have had the pleasure of training a refugee assessment team to measure the impact of Little Ripples. Training has consisted of tediously reviewing each question of the five page survey, teaching how to properly ask each question, correctly record the information, and use the weight and height scales. It’s been a lot, but the team has been doing so well! It’s been a really wonderful experience and I believe that has a lot to do with the participatory training methods we embrace and utilize at i-ACT.

All i-ACT programs are built upon the refugee men and women who seek to serve as leaders in their camp. Therefore, a lot of our time spent in the camps is focused on supporting these individuals in carrying out programs to the best of their ability.

During i-ACT trainings, we do not stand at the front of a classroom and speak while the refugees passively listen. This approach is trainer centered and tends to disregard the learners’ knowledge and experience. Instead, in our participatory training sessions, we sit next to our refugee teammates, often in a circle. As trainers we act as facilitators, providing guidance and information, we give demonstrations and illustrations, but most importantly, we give lots of time for open discussion, and space and opportunity for actively practicing. The participatory method most likely takes more time, but it’s a crucial learning process.

Through this approach, the assessment team has learned new skills, concepts, and interview methods over the past four days. My most proud moments during training have been when I’m able to quietly sit back, watch, and listen as the group works together to better understand each question and method; an iterative process that takes place until every member of the team feels comfortable with each question and skill. I’ve also been heartened by the team’s compassion for their peers. Team members never lose patience or put down their peers for mistakes made or for a lack of understanding or knowledge. If someone has trouble writing their numbers in English, another team member quietly helps them without making a fuss of it. I have so many examples like this one from the past few days, and I’m really glad I’ve been able to observe these gracious moments.

These trainings have also been yet another reminder of the value of education. When we complete training tomorrow, I’ll leave wishing we could offer more.

Check out the photos from our training so far! Let us know what you think!?

With gratitude,
Sara-Christine

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Little Ripples and a Big Fire in Goz Amer

By Felicia Lee

IMG_0066When we drove up to Little Ripples a couple days ago, I got a little choked up seeing the buildings for the very first time in person. Sure, I had seen photographs numerous times, but being at our preschool gave me such a sense of pride in i-ACT. When we got out of the car and started walking around, the sounds of students could immediately be heard floating out each of the six classrooms, and oh, what beautiful sounds they were. At this point, I got teary-eyed because the different learning activities that we could hear throughout the school grounds just really made Little Ripples sound like….a school. Later on, I played with some of the kids – well, a lot of the kids, actually, because they were all so curious and excited about the visitors – and it was great fun to have them crowded around and imitating every gesture I was making and repeating every word I was saying.

That first day in Goz Amer, we also walked through the camp and saw a preschool kiosk (which is basically a round concrete platform underneath a straw roof), as well as a primary school located between the two newest blocks (which house the newest refugee arrivals). This primary school currently has classrooms constructed of plastic sheeting.

The next day, we began our in-depth training of our Little Ripples assessment team, whose members I had met the day before for the first time. We continued our training yesterday, and by the time we sent the team members home I felt confident of their capabilities and very proud of their hard work. We still have another day-and-a-half of training, but I am happy to have such a strong assessment team, and one that we can trust to do accurate assessments while we are not here.

IMG_0837The day second day we went to Goz Amer, we witnessed the immediate aftermath of a fire that burned 33 homes. That was a difficult sight, especially when we saw the pile of burned sorghum that was unable to be salvaged. All I could think was, “the food, the food that they already have so little of…” Although it was inspiring to learn how tons of people come out and help put out a fire when there is one, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of services that we at home have: Where was the fire department? Where were the ambulances and the police cars? These are luxuries not found in refugee camps. The only concrete assistance they receive is from themselves. There seems to be a problem if fires like the one we saw are not an uncommon occurrence in these camps. Perhaps one fire wouldn’t raze such a high number of homes if the homes weren’t so crowded and smushed together.

Little Ripples and Darfur United Soccer Academy are again, just one step out of many that need to be taken, to help the refugees change their situation.


Across the Camp in Blazing Heat

By Tobia Kusian

The launch of the first three Little Ripples Ponds takes shape. Gabriel and I had two promising days of looking for suitable homes. Walking from one end to the other and back again, we found three homes in the camp that would be great for the first role models of the in-home pre-school program: Little Ripples Ponds. We collected ideas for each home and pictured a lot of Little Ripples, some of them sitting in a circle in a pavillon-like structure and some of them playing in a secure area next to a tree. It was nice to see that the families were so open-minded and appreciated the idea of setting up a Pond at their home.

One of them is Halima, a former teacher. She is living with her husband Usman and their three children in a nice home next to a small street, which would give the Pond a good address and also the possibility to leave quickly in case of fire. Since Halima is also affected – like all people in the camp – by the cut of food rations, she and her family would benefit from one more meal a day, which will be provided in the Ponds.

I can imagine that projects like Little Ripples Ponds, which can be easily adapted once the role models were set up, are more beneficial for becoming self-reliant than reducing food rations and aid from one day to the next.

The first step has been taken. Now we (only) have to get the international organizations on board. That is the plan for tomorrow.

I am very thankful for working on that project alongside Gabriel, which is giving me the chance to immerse in the camp with all its stories.

Tobi

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Refugee Camp Walking, Soccer Ball Dribbling Zen

By Gabriel Stauring

Dribbling a ball across a refugee camp is a very different experience than just plain walking across it. It connects you with the camp and its inhabitants in special and unique way.

Today, in what must have been 115 degrees heat, we walked from one corner of the camp to the other, and back and forth and in between this home to 30,000 people. All along, I brought with me a Darfur United soccer ball, trying to keep it at my feet, at the same time that I looked around and did what we needed to do.

I had to walk through and around donkeys, goats, carts pulled by horses (and lots of animal poo), boys, girls, women, and men. Children would yell, asking for the ball, women would laugh, and men would smile but still do their long and cordial greeting, starting with, “Assalamu alaikum.”

I kicked the ball over to boys, and they would look at me carefully, wondering if there was a catch, or if they could just kick it back. They kicked it back gently, but then much harder the second time around. Just about every single boy I passed by looked at the ball, then at my face, then back at the ball. They all smiled.

Men walking next to me received the pass and very cool and collected would do a couple of taps and then pass it back to me or another man walking with them. Everything changed when I turned on the camera. These men would try their best moves, and often the ball ended up flying past an unsuspecting person walking the other way. Some of them need a little practice. I can’t wait to launch the Darfur United Soccer Academy in this camp!

These refugees are experiencing real hardship. But there is magic in a soccer ball. It puts you in the moment and connects you with others, no matter how far away from home you are.

Peace,
Gabriel

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