Day 12: food, fun and our last workshop

This was to be the last day of workshops. No need to scramble for the bus, as our location was a school 5mins walk away from our flat. We were greeted by many girls saying “welcome” and taken up to a room where about 10 Save the Children staff were waiting for us. Unlike other sessions, these were people who had come voluntarily and who were very interested in what we were doing.

We did the usual exercises we had done with previous groups such as the name game and art therapy. But this group was really really nice and pleasant to work with. The meditation was much longer and we felt the people understood us and understood the benefits of meditation. When talking about past present and future, one lady Mona talked about how her life was a river flowing that couldn’t be planned or categorized. We shared our stories with them as well, which helped us bond even more. When Anya did her music therapy, there was such a deep silence in the room.

The session was over too way to fast but it was such a beautiful and encouraging way to end out time. Now we have to practice for our concert on Saturday.

That afternoon, we were invited by a lady called Maysa for lunch and then deserts at her home. We had met Maysa by chance at Zaatari camp and she had enjoyed trying out meditation. We all met up at a local restaurant that all the taxis knew just by name: Mataam al Usrah, the kind of place that makes excellent local cheap food. And the food was indeed delicious! We tried many new dishes. Soon we were stuffed. Maysa wanted to invite us… but we beat her to it and invited her instead… hard to argue with a big group of young people when they are adamant.

But Maysa got her way with desert. And she spoiled us with a rich variety of Jordanian sweets and endless supply of tea. We enjoyed staying at her beautiful home so much we only left at 8pm! Most of our time was spent chatting, singing and even dancing. No chance of getting bored.

We came home and then it hit us, we had practically finished with our work here. Suddenly we all felt super exhausted, but satisfied at the same time.  Good thing we get to sleep in tomorrow.

 

Shalini (UK)

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Day 11: Meditation in the wind

What a day, was our last day at Zaatri for this tour but it ended with a bang. We started everyday like any other with a meditation and a hearty breakfast but they changed the program time to 10am so was a little less stressful.  There had 3 different programs that day; two with save the children and one with the WFP (World Food Program).  I had one with 25 WFP staff the day before; it was pretty intense but quite rewarding. We were spilt into 3 groups and my one ended up have 6 people as opposed to 8 in the others.  This was fine because I had done one yesterday, I felt quite good about doing it again today.

So we made our way to the camp and dropped off the others with save the children. We then arrived at the WFP HQ, I must say pretty much on time, which we were all proud of cause its not the easiest getting around Jordan. We got of the bus and met with the head staff who informed us we would be working with around 70 WFP staff. This was a bit of shock for us, knowing that we were the smallest group, but we are determined to make it work. This people work very hard and take on a lot of problems, so we did all with could. They are a lot different to the Amman staff with had a program with, a lot of them actually live in the camp itself. So we entered the tent to actually see 70 men and women staring back at us. It was a little overwhelming but we went in and set up.

We could feel that they were very restless, not knowing what to expect from us. We introduced ourselves and who we were and I could already see the doubt in a lot of there their faces.  So I asked them what they expected from us and coming up with a brick wall, so we just started into the name game.  The men were Surprising getting really into it, give men a competition and they will perform. They got so into it, I had to start making up different things the add the there names so they would get bored but was fun. Once we got them a little riled up we went into the number game. Counting from 1 to 21 in order but randomly. They managed 5, they even come up to me saying “5 is good…5 is good”. I told them we would move on the next part, which in the meditation and after I guarantee they will get to 21. Of course they didn’t believe me but I had faith. Garima led a very nice meditation but some were still a little restless, the woman especially. I took over at the end and lead again in to the number game again telling them they are all connected thought this energy and they are one team, one body. Again they only got till 5 but I was relentless, every time they failed I would say stop thinking and feel the number. On the 4th or 5th try, I really gave it to them; bellow stop thinking, just stop, you have to feel when it’s your turn.  They suddenly sat in silence for about a min and started counting. (This is 70 people let me remind you) Very slowly counted and made it to 21. The men just started cheering, not believing it. It was hilarious but really nice to see. I just knew they would make it.  What was really amazing to see was how attentive they were after the game.

We took this opportunity of their attentiveness to speak more about how this meditation worked and how they can use it at home. They came up with some very interesting questions and whole scene seemed quite relaxed now. We then moved on to the next active, which was to write their name on a piece of paper and stick it on the back. Then people would write positive things or qualities about them but they would know who is was it.  We were a bit worried and the beginning about how the men and woman would be together because the men were so many but they mingled so nicely. Once they had finished we asked if anyone would like to read theirs out, which ended up sparking another pretty in depth conversation about how it all works, with positive and negative energy and how if you focus on the positive, you can let go of the negative. I was great to see how the men were really getting into it cause they are usually the hardest, we still had to the give them telling off of you but all listened in the end.

The next activities we did were music therapy and past present future and how they relate to it. They were both a bit touch and go with them. They have never really seen things like they before, so it was strange for a few people but still others were really into it. We were there to get them to express themselves with these activities but some work, some don’t but we offer them all because eventually they fall into something that they can relate too. To me the best thing about them is how you can relate them all to meditation. They were a actually great group by the end, really interactive and responsive. I ended the program with a small meditation, just sitting there. They were so still; the change in them was immense. It was really the perfect way to end the last day in Zaatri.

Anthony, from UK

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Day 9: Express and unwind

Today was my first workshop leading the staff from Save The Children. A team of six of us lead roughly twenty five staff members through a series of ice-breaking games and various activities that promoted sharing and self expression. I was not prepared for the honesty and integrity of the group, particularly expressed by the men.

What I enjoyed most was listening to the groups responses of the tree painting exercise where each person had to draw a tree and on its branches they had to write negative things that impact on their day to day life. Many issues were voiced including transport problems, economical problems in the country (which certainly seemed to affect the majority of those who spoke) which impact their emotions and general state of well being. One of the first who shared their tree was Mahmoud whose first few negative aspects were smoking, uncontrollable temper affecting family relationships. He then elaborated on his feelings of frustration at not being able to feel in control of his emotions, of knowing he is out of balance and not able to centre himself. He shared so much with us in a passionate way. I felt happy that the ice-breaking sessions had created this safe space for sharing emotions and for allowing the staff to truly open up and reveal issues that may have been silenced or not addressed.

Tanya (UK)

Day 8: Music to regenerate

Today was my first real day on the Jordan tour, and everything flowed so smoothly. We performed two concerts at the Save the Children training facility; firstly for a group of children and then for the staff. The children were super enthusiastic which really spurred us on, especially during the upbeat songs. Everyone was smiling and clapping and some even dancing, creating a tremendous amount of energy in the room. The atmosphere with the staff was much calmer, with a serene meditation session and soft music. Some of the reactions were very touching as everyone felt cool and some had tears in their eyes. The welcome we received from everyone and their enthusiasm throughout was really encouraging and I’m already so excited for the rest of the tour!

-Nooria (UK)

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Day 7 Dinner in Heaven

Dinner at Mohammad´s

After a day well spent  in Petra, we were invited for dinner by one of the Save the Children staff, Mohammad. 18 of us tried to squeeze in the house and were greeted by heartwarming smiles and hugs. We were seated around a big table in the back garden, surrounded by walls composed of beautiful yellow-gold sandstone that shone with a golden hue as the sun set. Soon we were under a well-lit Jordanian sky busy with stars. A beautiful namaaz (prayer) from a distant mosque filled the balmy evening and marked the start of our dinner. Big trays of authentic Jordanian food lay in front of us. As we helped ourselves to a variety of delicious dishes like Maklooba, biryani; stories and smiles were exchanged, and gestures where language limited us. It was time for some arabic coffee fragrant with cardamom, a fragrance that always reminded me of India.We shared our individual experiences at the refugee camps as well our tastes in music. Mohammad´s favourite was ´Jude´ by the Beetles, perhaps because his one and a half year old daughter was named Jude. As the range of nationalities varied, so did the taste in music and from Russian, Indian and Australian national anthem to backstreet boys; our multinational group covered it all. We decided to call it a night. A relaxed, joyful evening; just what we needed before we prepared ourselves for a concert the next day and a whole week of working in the refugee camps.

Garima (India/London)

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Day six: Take a break

Today was a free day, some of us went to float in the dead sea, the others went scrambling all over Petra. Here are a few souvenir pics :-)

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Day five: musical statues and high fives

Our group of about 8 young people started the day with a joyful workshop with the young boys of the group F CFS (Child Friendly spaces).
Working with 60 boys from 4 to 11. We also had a small group of really small kids about 2 years old.
Once again this workshop allowed us to work on our skills of spontaneity and improvisation when we realized that we didn’t really have a translator :)
It’s amazing how the language barrier is not an obstacle preventing the children from feeling the power of collectivity and the silence of meditation.
It was so beautiful to see the amazement in the staff when the kids sat in mediation in pin drop silence. One little 2,5 year old girl sat crossed legged in mediation for long time. One of the staff came to me excitedly pointing that out and saying “that is real meditation”.

In the afternoon we had a workshop at the base camp with save the children staff. It was really nice to recognise many of the faces again since some of them had joined our workshops last April or had been translating for us on the previous days. The staff workshops are also so much fun and really joyful because they allow us to go much more in depth about mediation and how they can use it in their daily lives and so on. The highlight for me is always the moment just after the collective mediation when people share their experiences and have this amazed, relaxed and calm face expression. I feel the unique but in a way similar  experiences really encourages the group and strengthens their bond to each other. I was so excited when two people in our group (who had been to our workshops in April) mentioned that they have been meditating with the children and that they experienced that it really works and changes the children even the naughty ones. Some of the kids came back on their own accord wanting to meditate :)

All in all we had lots of fun and it’s so joyful to see how we are so quickly building a bond and friendship with the save the children staff and how they are welcoming us and mediation into their lives so easily.

Anjani Hackl from Austria

Today we went to CFS N, the program was for little boys; somehow the children appeared to be restless here, the program started with warm-up games, accompanied by the cheerful cello music played by Emma. We followed this with the meditation exercise for the boys, the staff and volunteers who worked with the boys. Most of the staff and some of the children really enjoyed the meditation, but some children were unsettled. Meditation was followed by drawing activity, and then the boys had a break of playing outside.

A staff explained to me a collective drawing by the little boys: two smiling circles meant ‘boy and girl’, ‘This is a flower’, then she pointed out a figure of a person with a line on the neck – ‘this person is the president of Syria, and the line means cutting-off his head’, two boys drew a person and a animal – ‘this person is the president of Syria, the boy said that he is a donkey.’  Soon, the noise in the playground became louder, as the children started to fight with each other with fist and stones.

‘This is a newer site, and many of the boys here saw a lot of killing and violence.’ Later in the day, when we returned to the Save the Children base camp, other staff told us. ‘They are more difficult, they do not listen to us.’

After the break, we decided to play a milder game (musical statues) to calm them, and then did another meditation. It was much calmer this time with the cello and a shloka. The staff told us that the boys enjoyed the meditation, and that it’s really good for them.

In the afternoon, we arrived at CFS A.  Location A was one of the first sites Save the Children established in Zaatri. The program was for little girls, and some of them were toddlers. Compared to the boys, the girls were gems. We had the meditation after the warm-up games, and all of them could feel it. We had them close their eyes and meditate to the music of the cello.  After the last note of the music, we slowly opened our eyes – a staff sitting next to me looked at me with serenity, many girls said at once that they felt very happy and calm inside. Their eyes were sparkling.

Then we played musical statues with them, which soon turned into a free-style dance with Ceilidh, merry-turn-around, laughter and hugs. As we danced in a big circle to the music, the atmosphere was filled with joy.  After the program, on the way back to the base camp, we were together with the staff from location A, we looked out the window, the same dusty layout of the Zaatri camp looked so different. ‘I really enjoyed the meditation‘, she said to me, ‘It was very beautiful,’ she said.

Then I realized that the wish I had in the morning came true – ‘Please let the children and the people we work with today feel the silence within, and have a beautiful experience of meditation.’

Inshallah.

Sheng-Chia from Taiwan/UK

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Games and more on Day 4

Today was another fascinating day at the Syrian refugee camp.

More of the M2R team joined in from other countries. We are now 15.. Feels good to be together.

We had 3 workshops from 9 to 12 and 3 more in the afternoon with some of the children of the camp and a few of the staff and the volunteers (Syrian refugees who volunteer to help the actual staff of Save the children).

Everyday is a new adventure, as we meet new people. The best are the children, especially if they are a bit naughty and noisy. Like today we had about 6 to 9 year old boys who were really agitated. They had a terrific time enjoying the games. We all feel like children when we are with them. Their laughs and giggles melt with ours. And the meditation exercise although sometimes is a struggle to get their attention to look at you and stop talking, still  the magic moment comes and all of a sudden you open your eyes and you find these naughty and troublesome boys in complete silence. And when they open their eyes for a few seconds they are just stunned. They nod to confirm that they felt cool. The twinkle of their eyes warms our hearts..

Working with the staff was terrific. We developed so much respect and admiration for them after hearing the stories they told us. How they spend not only the hours to help and educate the children and their parents but also they give a lot of their hearts to sooth and comfort everyone who needs them. We got to think that all Jordanians are really open hearted and compassionate in nature. The taxi drivers, the people working in restaurants etc… Just smiling and really helpful.

We talked open heartedly with the staff and heard their problems and felt their pressures. Discussed, then meditated and worked on the specific issues suggesting simple art expression exercises.

They were calm and a bit relieved, looking forward to our next meeting where we will be going through more details about how to live, love and give and work hard while staying happy and healthy….

Rania from Egypt

With six sessions to do today, we split into three groups. One group spent their day working with the children in the Child Friendly Spaces over two sessions while the other two groups worked with the Save the Children staff. Each group was made up of five of 30 staff members and us.

Our morning group was all female, some of whom had already participated in the April workshops and have tried meditating at home. We started with simple ice breaking games to help everyone get to know one another and feel comfortable about opening up. These consisted of what is known as the name game as well as a team building sessions before we moved to the meditation. After the meditation exercise we had some lovely reactions and comments with one lady on the verge of tears and others feeling varying degrees of cool vibrations on different parts of their bodies.

The dynamic of our afternoon session was different as we had a lot of men taking part. We went through similar workshops with them as well as trying out a new artistic activity which involved participants drawing a tree representing all the difficulties and negative aspects they face in their daily life. By identifying these challenges and externalising them, the idea is that they become easier to face and overcome. In that respect, we had them follow this up by drawing a tree reflecting the opposite aspects of all the negative ones they listed. By putting up positive, happy points on the tree we were able to launch a discussion on the best ways to make the transition. This was something they reacted well too as they were able to identify how meditation could help them maintain their balance and inner peace allowing them to manage the difficulties they face working with the refugees as well as their personal lives.

While designing their happy tree, some of the ladies in the first session fashioned themselves bindhis out of our beads.

In the evening, we went walking around the centre of Amman and the Zouk ending up at the Roman Amphitheater. While exploring the heart of Amman, we also took the opportunity to do some shopping for local items such as perfumes and head scarfs.

JJ

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Triple the Fun on the Third Day

Group 1

Today we started our program with 35 young boys, ages 6-12 years old.  We began with a name game, with the help of the Save the Children staff.  The boys very much enjoyed throwing a balled up piece of paper to each other and learning each others names, and even involved the youngest of the group in the game.

After the name game we requested the children to arrange themselves by height, and a noisy scramble ensued.  We started to play music as the boys marched around the room in a large train, laughing and running at all different speeds.  Every time the music stopped, the boys were to drop to the floor and stay attached in the train.  This led to a rowdy tumble of boys laughing and pulling each other, which came to a close when we decided to start our meditation session.

The boys were cheeky and making loud snoring noises, until Rania was able to finally catch their attention and bring them into total silence.  There was such a sense of peace throughout the room, and we all opened our eyes and saw pure joy in the faces of the children.

The boys then had to rush to school, and we were invited to an absolutely delicious lunch with the Save the Children staff.  This included homemade falafel, hummus, bread, and fresh vegetables.

The next stop was a program with adolescent girls, ages 10-16 years old.  We went through the name game, and then played the tangle game with 3 separate groups.  The girls loved entangling each other’s hands, and insisted we go through the game at least 3 times.  After this, we sat them in a large circle to play a game of numbers.  This game proved to be challenging, as it requires patience throughout a large group of participants.  Anton then led a meditation session, in which many of the girls were able to experience meditation. Some of the older girls seemed to have trouble staying quiet, and struggled to participate.  However towards the end, many people raised their hands to show they felt a warm or cool breeze.

We closed the program with a musical game, which the younger girls very much enjoyed.

The second program was definitely more challenging, but we left the day feeling satisfied and happy with the results.

Sulu, from America

Group 2

In our first session we had around 30 young  girls. We gave some introduction about “Meditate to regenerate” and about the benefits of meditation. We started with the name  game and then gave the realization. They enjoyed the game and during the realization many of them felt the cool breeze on top of their head.

We gave them a topic to draw about their  dreams and aspirations and they drew beautiful pictures expressing their love for Syria and that they would like to go back to their homes in Syria.  Then we taught them the balancing technique. They were well involved and enjoyed the whole session.

In our second session we had a mixed group of teenagers and mothers around 70 of them. We started the same way as for the first session with a short introduction. As they were many people we divided them into two groups and played the name game. As they were two different age groups, we gave them a choice between dance or draw/paint. We taught them few steps of a Scottish dance, and the younger girls painted and drew together. It went really well and they seemed to have enjoyed well.

Gayatri, from India

Group 3

Today was the third day of workshops with children and for me it was the first day. We left for the refugee camp in the morning and I was not sure what to expect. So I was quite surprised to see how huge the camp is!!!
I really enjoy the way that we are all so spontaneous (maybe too spontaneous). It’s quite an adventure to decide on the exact activities while we are in the bus to the camp. It was quite funny when one worker from Save the Children asked us if we were trained to do these activities, and we answered “well…..not really”. It’s so fun that we still eventually know what we are doing and enjoy bringing smiles to those kids’ faces.
Playing games with the kids was really fun, because they get sooo excited!! The boys were a bit cheeky and tried to keep the coloring pens that we used to draw. With the second group we had 70 girls that were giggling all the time, and very interested in us western people. Basically, all the kids are sooo cute! I sometimes realized that I was getting distracted by how cute they are!
When we did the meditation activities it was amazing to see how those super excited kids would suddenly be sitting there so sweetly with their eyes closed and their hand on their heart. In the boys group there was even one boy that was already sitting with his hands open on his lap before we had explained how it works. He was already copying the image he saw on the chart that we put in the room!
Altogether, it’s really fun working with these kids and impressive to see that meditation can bring them from hyper-active to completely peaceful. We can all feel the change of atmosphere in the room.
Tomorrow we’re starting with workshops for volunteers, so let’s see how that will go :)

Anjani, from Holland

 

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Second Day of Adventures

CFS Group Child Friendly Space

Team: Anjani, Sulu, Shalini

After having started the day late, we got lost in Zaatari. Our driver did not know where we were supposed to go for our workshop. We went to numerous child centres at the camp, until at last we were told we were expected.

But we had been expecting some mothers and youths. Instead we were greeted by about 40 boys, shouting and bursting with energy. Time to start improvising!

So we decided to play games with them. Luckily we had some very helpful Save the Children staff members who helped us divide the kids into groups.

These boys are scruffy, with dirty clothes, and hair unkept, dirty noses, but when they smile their entire face lights up. They are so innocent and cute. There are some though that never smile, and just look at you sadly.

After playing some ice breaker games we proceeded with doing arts. The idea was for everyone to draw what made them happy and what they hoped for their futures.

Most boys wanted to be pilots or join the army. There were a few that could write English words, which they showed us proudly, One boy, Mohammed wanted to know how we spelt our names. A few boys kept telling us “nice to meet you” and “what’s your name”.

Finally we made it to the meditation. At first it was difficult to get the kids to quieten down, they all kept giggling. But after doing the realization exercise, there was a moment of silence, where the boys were actually meditating, that went on for a few minutes. Us girls were quite surprised, cause you could see they were feeling something, the experience was real.

Once we were done, the boys all wanted to have their photo taken. Perfect for us as their faces had an added glow. These boys have nothing, yet their expressions are so heart warming.

Next stop: not mothers and teens… but 53 little girls. Who ever said girls are calmer than boys got it all wrong. These girls were full of energy. The staff divided them into groups and each group had an older girl looking after the little girls. When we asked them to draw what makes them happy, or what they want for their future, nearly all the girls drew a school with the flag of Syria. One group had a daisy chain of people holding hands.

The meditation exercise was also a bit tricky with the girls, but once again some of them really got it. You could see from their faces that they were meditating and experiencing silence of some kind. And nearly all the girls felt a cool or warm breeze.

Once again at the end, we were bombarded with requests to take photos. Anjani found herself carrying a baby and surrounded by little girls, all smiling and doing  peace signs with their hands.

Somehow the sessions just seem to fly by! Working with these children is so much fun and so rewarding. They leave an imprint in your heart.

Oh and Anjani has officially been renamed Janine. Watch out for that name on this blog.

Shalini, from England

 

It was my first day on the tour and as we arrived to Zaateri camp, we saw the appalling conditions and the hardships the refugees have to go through, which really touched me, and at the same time outlined the importance of teaching meditation at this place.

The first group of people we had a workshop with consisted mainly of men in their thirties, and the “icebreaker” name game, however childish it is, cheered them up and made the atmosphere much more relaxed. After another game we started the meditation part and most of the men seemed to have really enjoyed it! We didn’t expect they would be so interested and they kept asking questions about the subtle system and some were even taking notes.

The second group was different as we had around 30 giggling kids who came after playing football and were a bit agitated. They were really nice though, and after trying the meditation they really felt the impact and were happy to when they felt cool breeze not only above their heads but also above other kids’ heads.

Anton, Czech Republic

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