We woke up this morning to sunshine pouring in our windows. Although tired, we were ready for the programs ahead of us, which included not only our third day at Talbieh refugee camp, but two new programs at a private school and one with the AWO (Amman Women’s Organization). We decided to split into two groups in order to get everything done, meaning that we have double the photos to post (make sure to get to the bottom so you find the gallery)!
In the first group we went to Talbieh and spent the morning with the women from the previous two days. We started off with a simple meditation to get everyone in an introspective mood. We had a cultural heritage workshop where each person spoke about an object of significance in their life. Most women spoke about the importance of Palestine, their home country, or relatives who had passed away. One lady in particular told us about a bag of Palestinian soil that had been passed down from her grandmother, to her mother, and to her. Many of the others also chimed in that they had bottles or bags of soil at home. By the end of our workshop we were all humbled by the experiences the women shared with us. There was a certain peaceful silence in the room as people were reminiscing and enjoying their memories.
During our break we had a very pleasant experience with a few of the girls who had finished school! One in particular shared songs and games with us, while another told us about her favorite rock bands and musicians.
In our afternoon session we worked with the men from the previous two days. From the beginning there was a much different mood, slightly more intense. Although we again started with a meditation, it took the men longer to calm down and there was a lot of chatting. Eventually we reached a profound silence when the only sound in the room was the buzzing light bulb. Once more, we spoke about objects important to each of us, but the mood and direction of the conversation was entirely different to the women. Many of them simply expressed their frustration and exasperation at their present situation. One man questioned, “Why am I here? If I have a homeland, then why am I in this refugee camp living as I am?” It got us all thinking and reflecting. A few of the men had brought photos of Jerusalem and told us stories from their youth. It’s amazing how comfortable everyone became and honestly shared their lives with us.
This group finished off with two really beautiful messages. One man brought a budding plant and explained how the plant grew from a simple seed which sprouted roots and is now growing and flowering. He told us that each part of the plant offers something beneficial to the world and to us, whether it be fruit, or simply beauty. He impressed upon us that each human being should be like that seed, growing and offering benefits to those around us. That we should live so that we do good for others, and grow through this.
Finally, our friend (whom we can’t name, so let’s call him S-) made an amazing speech bringing some of us to tears. He shared the story of his parents passing away, he was raised by his grandmother. He has found that the most important things in life are often the simplest ones. Above all, the simplicity of Love. He said that no matter where you come from, what religion you are, whatever you work or eat or like, everyone can be friends, everyone can love. It is that love which is the most powerful in our lives; love between parents and children, between friends, even between coworkers. Even between refugees in a Palestinian camp in Jordan and volunteers from different countries who have come for four days. We were blown away by his honesty and sweetness, this is something we’ll remember for a long time.
In the second group we went to the private school Almansour during the morning. We were taken up to a classroom of 21 students who were 16 years old. Once we had introduced ourselves, we started the workshop with an ice breaker name game, which got the group talking and built up their comfort and confidence with us. Once we all knew each others names, we had a quiet meditation and then a music therapy session where we all sang “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa” (the Classical Indian version of Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do) concentrating on each of the energy centers as they correspond to each note. Everyone found it very joyful and left for a break with a smile on their face. After the break we had tea once more, all participated in a team-building game, and ended up taking group pictures with the children.
A member of the staff at the school took us all out to lunch in a restaurant in Amman which was absolutely mind-blowing. We had traditional Jordanian dishes with freshly made pitta bread and a delicious authentic hummus. It was such a pity we weren’t able to bring any back for the other team!
In the afternoon we went to a refugee school, in which there were 63 children from 7 to 14 years old. We again started with the name game, which the kids loved, and then we sat them down for meditation. Some children shouted out that the meditation was beautiful and they all tried doing the meditation exercises again on their own.
After the meditation we split the kids into teams and gave each team a big piece of paper. Their task was to draw how they all wanted their future to be. One by one, all the teams explained their drawings blowing us away with their hopes and dreams. They all had a strong desire for world peace, especially peace in their countries. A group of girls explained how they felt judgement only by their religion and not as for who they really were and so asked for all of us to pray for peace and and love to be shared worldwide. We did the prayer all together there and then. It was a touching and precious moment in our day, even the girls themselves were tearing up.
By the end of the workshop we were all so joyful and some girls asked to join us on the rest of our Jordan tour, to which we said yes (of course) and they will join us on a couple of the workshops later on this week! We have made lifelong friendships with these amazing children, students, and people today!
It has been a beautiful day and we all shared wonderful experiences together. Only the third day of the Jordan Tour and already things are turning out better than anyone could have expected! We have been absolutely blown away by the experiences people share with us so openly and honestly. There is so much for us to learn from these wonderful people and we can’t wait for the next week and a half!