DECEMBER 5th, 2017
by Katerina Parpa
Merhaba!” (“Hello!”) said a little Syrian girl dressed in a red hoody. I introduced myself, and the girl told me her name was Sabah. Her smile won me over instantly – I like to believe the feeling was mutual. This is one of the memories from the Cultural Heritage and Interactive Learning Development (C.H.I.L.D.) Center that now fuel my everyday work at SAT-7.
We arrived right before the children’s first recess break. Although the facility had only been open for a week, everything was running smoothly. A touching moment came for my traveling companion and SAT-7’s Projects Manager, Nicoletta Michael, when she was handed the bell that calls the children to play outside. The children rushed out joyfully and began playing: some with hula-hoops, others with painted tires and soccer balls.
Some children, like Sabah, were noticeably confident and sociable. Others were self-conscious and reserved. They weren’t afraid of us, but they were generally withdrawn. While other kids played together, these children sat alone, staring into the distance. I wondered what traumatic experiences they had faced, or might be facing still. I hoped that the center’s psychosocial support, and SAT-7’s encouraging educational and developmental programs, would help them to overcome their fears and trauma.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
We also met four mothers of children at the center. The women are all from the same village in Syria and now live on a local farm near the center, where their husbands work on the land. I was later informed that in some families, up to twenty people are living together in a one-room shack. In the heart of the cold winter in the mountains, the women will have nothing to wear but disheveled clothes and worn-out sandals.
More of Nicoletta’s words rang in my head as we met with the mothers. “Six years ago, these families could not have imagined that they would be in such a situation,” she had reminded me. “They had other dreams for their children, but then the war came.”
“MY TEACHER AND MY HERO”
Little Sabah’s hopeful smile has been engraved into my memory. Her picture is now the wallpaper on my smartphone – a device that can cost as much as a year’s supply of clothing or healthcare for her. For the same cost, SAT-7 can provide a whole year of programming for over 300 young viewers just like Samah.
For me, Sabah represents the millions of children who have lost their homes and fled their countries. Many are not able to attend school, or even a learning center such as this one. She represents all those who have no access to proper health and dental care, clean clothes, or shoes that fit. And yet she smiles joyfully and welcomes new friends with open arms. She is my teacher and my hero. She reminds me to be grateful and brave, and to smile, trusting in a humanity that cares and in hope for a better future.
SAT-7 International Office Communications Officer | Katerina Parpa is Greek-Cypriot, born in Cyprus and grew up in the US. Her previous work ranges from secular media to retail management and marketing. Her passions are health and fitness, art and culture, and supporting the local community through volunteer work and event planning.
The Cultural Heritage and Interactive Learning Development (C.H.I.L.D.) Center opened its doors in November 2017. The center uses SAT-7 ACADEMY programs to provide learning to 75 children who cannot access or afford traditional schools, who have been rejected from schools due to lack of space, or who have learning disabilities or additional needs created by trauma. The popular My School program is being used to teach the children a basic curriculum of Arabic, math, science, English, and French. Other programs encourage emotional development and address current affairs and social issues. The facility also offers psychosocial support to the families and specialized teacher training.
The facility aims to measure the impact of SAT-7 ACADEMY’s programs and to identify the families’ educational, psychological, and physical needs. SAT-7 hopes that more NGOs working on the ground with refugees, displaced people, and others who lack access to education will open centers that use SAT-7 ACADEMY’s multimedia educational approach.