Zulfa (not real name), 16, never was able attend school in her home country, Somalia. The war has shattered the dreams of the orphan girl, who was forced to flee her country before arriving in Indonesia around 10 months ago.
In Indonesia, she lives in a shelter run by UNHCR Indonesia’s partner Church World Service (CWS) in Jakarta. “I want to go to school, to university. I want to be a telecommunications engineer. I want to be a millionaire so I can help poor people,” Zulfa said with a beaming face.
Zulfa’s “dream” of going to school is becoming a reality here in Indonesia, including with the help of Academic Colleges Group (ACG) School Jakarta. She had an opportunity to participate in a series of group activities organized by ACG. Zulfa was one of 20 refugee youth who took part in the one-day event.
ACG School Jakarta Principal Stuart Tasker said that the event was part of the school’s community service programme. “The refugees are of course in difficult situations, so by inviting them to the school we could offer them some activities which were hopefully both enjoyable and interesting,” Tasker told UNHCR. “[Today] The ACG School Jakarta students were able to share their own learning and also to continue to develop their social skills by acting as hosts and buddies,” he added.
ACG teacher who initiated the event, Sofia Afgan, said that such activities were good to involve students with those who were less fortunate. “Today’s activities gave [ACG] kids experience to work with international people who are disadvantaged groups like refugees,” Sofia said.
Escorted by ACG students and teachers, the refugee youth headed to the school’s gym for some ice-breaker activities. In this session, each ACG student paired with a refugee and they will be each other’s buddy for the rest of the day. Each pair jointly worked on a series of project that day. Two interpreters – in Afghan and Somali – were deployed to ensure smooth communication between teachers, ACG students and their guests in all activities.
At the beginning, some refugee youth seemed reserved. But the friendliness of the hosts and the enthusiasm of the guests eventually created a solid bond and resulted in good team work. The refugee and ACG youth had a chance to get to know each other through joint activities such as the art class in which they created photo frames decorated with ornaments made of clay.
A Somalian refugee, Abdi, and a 10th grader Indonesian Nadira, decided to put their names and the name of Barcelona Football Club striker Luis Suarez on their frame. “I like football. I like Suarez,” said Abdi. “We put Suarez’s name on it because he likes him. I don’t know anything about football,” Nadira said as she giggled.
While making the artwork, the students and refugees were seen engaging in conversations. Some language barriers were spotted but this did not create a problem for 10th grader Alisha, “I have no problem with the language barrier, we understand each other and it’s [the activities] fun,” said Aisha, who partnered with an Afghan girl, Aliya.
After doing some artwork, all participants learned how to create a baking soda volcano in science class. They molded hand-in-hand, getting their hands dirty to create volcano “dough”. “The students are nice and very supporting. They help me a lot,” Zulfa said, while making the dough. The youth marveled in awe when the volcano “erupted”, spewing out colorful lava.
At the gym, the children played dodgeball in two groups and looked more excited once the sports teacher blew the whistle that started the game. Meanwhile Hanna, a 10 year old refugee from Afghanistan, said that she was hesitant to play at the beginning when she saw everybody was throwing ball at each other. Slowly but surely, after seeing how much fun everyone was having, she joined the others to play.
The student and refugee youth then moved to a music class where they learned an English song “The World’s Greatest” popularized by American singer R. Kelly. Some students showed their musical talent by playing the organ, guitar and cello, while three young refugees sang in front of the audience. Afghan twins Hanna and Aliya performed touching songs about mothers and happiness respectively, while an Afghan boy Hashim performed an Indonesian song titled Kesempurnaan Cinta (The Perfection of Love) where they all received warm applause from the audience.
The refugee youth were able to bring home their beautifully adorned photo frames, which displayed their photos with their buddies. “I will keep this in my room,” Abdi said as he looked with pride at the photo frame in his hands.
The day was also meaningful for the ACG students. “It was more than inspirational to have learnt that the people I met today were so strong even after all that they went through. The hardship that they experienced doesn’t keep them from doing the best, and I am so blessed to have learnt so much about the small experiences of the girl I was partnered with, she taught me what I would have never knew in such a small time.” said Ariya, a 14-year-old student.
Even though they had just met, many of them quickly bonded and sympathized with each other’s experiences. At the closure of the day they shook hands, some shed tears, while others hugged as they bid farewell.