“Light upon light” (Quran 24:35).
These three words best describe the layers of conquering fear… spreading joy… and embracing refugee orphan children… to define our Givelight community.
Teaching English to Syrian refugee and orphan children in Turkey over zoom represents my most meaningful endeavor upon joining the Givelight mission some years ago during high school. Our weekly classes unraveled my students’ layered experiences from the trauma of war to the hope for stability, highlighting unique journeys to reclaim lost dreams and identities. This perseverance inspired me to work together to create the book, “Unsilenced: Voices of Children Refugees,” a platform to share their resilient stories from their perspectives.
Journey to Givelight in Turkey (June 1, 2023)
During my college summer break, my family and I felt incredibly grateful to travel and meet many of these Givelight students in Turkey with the Givelight coordinator’s help. After years of Zoom teaching from the United States, I led our first in-person class in Istanbul!
I have come to Turkey for this… to meet the children whose innocent stories spread light. Welcomed by the warmest smiles and hugs as I enter a brightly lit classroom, finally interacting with my Givelight children seems surreal.
Eager to practice their English, the students take turns saying their names, age, and favorite activities in Turkey. We bond over our love for the beautiful mosques and beaches in this land. Imagining these children only as refugees of war, one might expect to meet overly mature individuals defined by singular experiences. On the contrary: some little boys gush over soccer, while other young girls share dreams of becoming fashion designers and artists. In fact, my 5th grade student blinded by the trauma of war wears the biggest smile throughout our visit, personifying the meaning of Giving Light to outshine darkness. He believes his sight will return one day against all diagnoses. This center is full of hope.
Ready for our in-person interactive English class, I prepare little surprises along the way.
I hand my students packages wrapped in polkadot print.
“The first person to correctly guess the item inside will open the wrapper first …” I announce as they examine their presents curiously.
Excitedly, the kids call out an Arabic word “… But in English” I tease.
Finally after many attempts, we practice repeating the word “lamp” on the whiteboard as theyardently open their gifts, admiring each others’ unique magic lamp colors. My blind student, too, appreciates the lamp delicately with his hands. They take turns repeating each color in English after me (although sometimes eagerly before me) – a typical practice during our online English classes.
Once they safeguard their magic lamps, we play rock, paper, scissors in English to win the next little gift, colorful ceramic bowls.
“Do we know the rules?” I ask, motioning my sister to help me demonstrate the game. Watching us, their giggles convey that they already know a local version. I remind them however, for this competition, they must practice their English.
As a few stumble on the difficult pronunciation of “scissors,” others help their peers, each excited to win a prize. Playing in-person games with my students during our English class exposes energetic facets of their personalities, far more engaging than the “Brady Bunch screens” on Zoom.
Remembering my own favorite game as a young student, I also teach them a version of “heads-up, seven-up” to earn boxes of Turkish delight. Eve