Recently about 100 unaccompanied and separated refugee children, both boys and girls, who live in three CWS-supported group homes in Jakarta started new classes in the group homes. It was an exciting time not only for the students, who were ending a two-week break and were eager to resume learning, but also for five new volunteer teachers who were joining eight veteran teachers who have been volunteering their time for a while. All 13 teachers are refugees too and, until a few months ago, three of five the new teachers were themselves living in a group home. Because they reached age 18, when they are no longer considered children by international standards, the three young adults left their group living to face the challenges of living independently outside the protection of a strongly supported group home.
Given the need for more teachers and the opportunity to help with their transition, CWS recruited the volunteer teachers who will now receive a small stipend and still be in contact with Social Workers as well as all their friends in their homes. After the first full week of teaching the three new teachers shared news of their experience, which is presented anonymously. “I think some of the students are very keen to learn,” said one teacher, while another noted that his students are very polite as he gets to know them better – but from a different perspective.
“My students are very enthusiastic,” says the third teacher, “and they are very happy to have one of their friends teaching them and sharing their knowledge with them”. Having lived in group homes themselves has helped these young men in their new roles, for sure. Says the one who teaches English, “I was a mentor for a year, and five times each week I would mentor other children in our home as part of the mentor-mentee program. That experience helped me get a lot of practice and it built my confidence as I became familiar with teaching. But honestly, all of the experiences I had in my group-living days helped to prepare me for my new role as teacher. I have always thought about becoming a teacher; to me, it is a great way to give back.” Echoing his friend, the young man who now teaches computer classes says he is feeling fortunate to have been a part of the group home as it is helping him teach. “Going back to the group home after a few months reminded me of how grateful I am to have had the chance of learning a lot of valuable skills. A year ago, I could not have imagined that I would be a computer teacher one day. But, thanks to the group home set-up, I had access to computers and was helped by my teacher, too.”
CWS team members are proud these three new volunteer teacher are making the best of what is a very difficult situation for them. Becoming a volunteer teacher in Jakarta is not what they dreamed of for themselves when they left their homelands for safety, security and a better future. Nevertheless, they realize that teaching is the start for them to reshape their futures. They are proof that with a little support, trust and motivation young refugees will strive to succeed. These young men inspire us to always do better to help young refugees – the hope, and the teachers, of the future.
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