Ray & Anne*

helping hands“What could we do with teaching backgrounds, some free time and a fairly useless smattering of formal Arabic?”

When my wife and I tell people that we live in the Middle East on and off, and that we help educate African refugee children there, most people start to ask us about how dangerous it must be there at the moment. Very few ask about what it must be like in the Middle East for the African refugees themselves. We hadn’t thought much about such things either, until in 2012, we visited a school with (mainly Christian) African refugee students.

We were in a particular Middle Eastern country at the time, teaching ESL at the suggestion of the Christian organisation that Second Wind Network had linked us with. We were also exploring, with its help, whether or not there was anything else that we, as ‘second winders’, with teaching backgrounds, some free time and a fairly useless smattering of formal Arabic, could do there. It turned out to be a fairly silly question, once we had seen the profound shortage of much-needed skilled helpers all over the country: a better question would have been ‘Where exactly will we put our energies, believing that this is where God is calling us to be and having the fellowship of others in our organisation?’

We decided to return in 2013 and 2014 to the very school for African refugees we had visited in 2012, but with more than three months at our disposal and a firmer sense of purpose—to help give the students there a decent education while they continued waiting, and often praying, for something to happen. And things do happen. Occasionally, one of our students or African teachers receives a coveted visa to the West, or a student somehow is able to head off to a more established school where the fees are usually prohibitive, or a student gets a job because his or her English is up to scratch.

So it became easy for us to see that the students needed the sort of education that would make a difference if they were to be among the ‘lucky few’ to be taken in by a developed country, but which would also assist them to ‘survive and thrive’ in an often hostile environment if they weren’t.

What exactly do we do at the refugee school?

Anything — from teaching classes; designing whole-school testing; and, up-skilling the African teachers, — to trying to find yet another way to obtain educational resources and organising the volunteers who spend a few hours each week helping ensure the younger children learn to read. There’s so much to be done, and it’s such a blessing to be able to do it! We can’t give you too many details or show you too much in photos; it is the Middle East! But, just to give you a bit of an idea, here’s one photo that shows a small group of students working together happily. If you could see their faces better you would see the smiles.

ME schoolWe are anxiously waiting to go back to the school early in 2015, God willing. We’re hoping this time to take a few people we know with us, even if they only stay a short while. This couple of second winders and their organisation, but even more so the refugee students and their African teachers themselves, could sure do with the help!

 

*For security reasons names have been changed and the organisation Ray and Anne are serving with has not been included, however, if you would like to know about serving in the Middle East, there are plenty of opportunities – please contact us for details.