Just this past Wednesday, seven of our own Panther Express heads took a trip to St. Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) to donate the dozens of books we collected from our school-wide book and supply drive. If I told you that this trip did nothing to me, I would be lying. In reality, I actually learned a lot by watching the refugees interacting with each other and by experiencing what the kids learn there.
To start off, I want to recognize my peers that participated on this trip – Amina Shindy, Arwa Ahmed, Farida Saker, Omar Elnashar, Fareeda Eraky, Salma Abdelsalam and one of our teachers, Ms. Rebecca Cays. I also want to thank all the people who donated books and supplies, especially the elementary and middle school, who made our donation extremely worthy. Now, onto the experience…
I’m not sure where to start. When we got to the refugee school, I was fairly impressed by how well-established it was. Now, don’t get me wrong, I often visit a number of orphanages and help out there, but this was my first time coming to a refugee school. And what an impression it was. The service had many small buildings within its community, as well as a small playground. Immediately, we noticed how there were actually a number of people within the gates, which made me realize how many refugees actually come to Egypt. I guess I’ve never really paid attention to what goes on outside of my everyday life – especially with situations like this. The lady and gentleman who toured us, Amany and Fadega, were so kind to show us around their buildings, from pointing out their legal offices, to their management office, to their classrooms next to a beautiful church. However, despite all this, what really struck me was what they were learning within the walls of their classrooms.
Despite being a little bit small, their classrooms had a very dynamic feel to them. I noticed how almost everyone was paying attention to and being engaged with their teacher, which is something that students in international/private schools often take advantage of. It seemed as though the kids in the refugee school were genuinely interested – as it should be. Another thing I also noticed was how despite being in the sixth or seventh grade, most of the students ranged from 15-18 years old, which is around my age – and I’m in the twelfth grade. This spoke volumes to me as I literally got to really understand how fortunate we are to have the education we do have. We visited three classrooms – math, science, and art. We were divided into three groups, with Farida, Omar and I being in the science classroom, Fareeda and Amina in the math classroom, and Arwa and Salma in the art classroom. While I don’t know how their experiences were, I definitely have a lot to say about mine.
When we entered the sixth grade classroom, the students’ teacher, Teacher Lee, was teaching them about the layers of the skin: the epidermis (the most outer layer) , dermis (second layer) and hypodermis (third layer). What I noticed as the most impactful was the fact that Teacher Lee was really teaching his students about social justice, whether he recognized that or not. I’m no Teacher Lee, but what he ultimately explained to them was that despite our (all humans) epidermises being different, we are all the same underneath. We all have the same dermis and hypodermis, along with overall chemical and biological composition, and we are no different. Our skin color does not separate any of us as we are all the same. I found this to be extremely inspiring and impressionable for the fact that I feel like this concept is often forgotten, ignored and disregarded by numerous people out in our world today. Race is not something that should define us because, in the end, we are all equal. So, props to Teacher Lee for teaching the students something that I think is very necessary to know and understand in the world we live in now.
For color does not define us nor should it determine how we are treated, nor should brethren and sisterhood be isolated based on how pigmented our skins are.
A big thank you to St. Andrew’s Refugee Services for hosting us.
By: Farida Hamza
Photo credit: https://studentaffairscollective.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2549172.jpg