SOW National Team: Islam's Interview
I first heard about Islam during an interview the SOW team had with Suhad Jabi, the Psychosocial Program Manager for TYO. Listening to Suhad tell Islam’s story was mesmerizing. Islam is 8 years old and lives in Askar Refugee camp. Growing up in a refugee camp can be extremely challenging. All of the houses are very close together, it is very crowded, and there is not a lot of space available. As a result, the children often have no place to play except for inside of the narrow corridors. Needless to say, the kids of refugee camps have to grow up quick.
When Islam first began TYO, he refused to cooperate in any of the programs. If they tried to get him to participate, he would just run away to a different room. After this behavior went on for a short time, the TYO staff, including Suhad, decided it was time to talk to Islam’s parents and see what his home life was like. It turns out that Islam’s parents were very frustrated with Islam because he was constantly getting into trouble and causing problems within the community. Together Suhad, the TYO Core Child teachers, and Islam’s parents all decided to work together to provide consistent positive re-enforcement for Islam.
After just weeks at TYO with the implementation of this new tactic Islam began to cooperate more in class. His parents said there was a noticeable difference in his behavior at home. In fact, Islam had struggled a lot with bed-wetting, but within a few weeks of being at TYO, he stopped. Islam continued to attend a few more sessions at TYO, and his parents and teachers now say he has become a completely different person.
Our cab went as far as it could into the camp. We didn’t know our way so the taxi driver rolled down the window and asked one of the 15 or so children surrounding the car to tell us where Islam’s house was located. Two little boys on bikes said they would show us the way. Within minutes of winding through the narrow passages of Old Askar camp, we reached the doorway where Islam and his family were waiting outside for us.
We were welcomed in with open arms. His mother quickly introduced her twin 3 year olds, 5 year old daughter, 18 year old son, and of course Islam (her two other children were not home.) I quickly said hello and tried to show how grateful I was to be there, despite the fact that I cannot speak Arabic at all.
We all sat down and began to talk. Islam was shy at first. Eventually Islam told us about his dream to become a pilot. He said the most exciting part about becoming a pilot is that when you fly the plane super high, then you are able to open the window of the plane and scoop snow in from the clouds. He discussed all of this while drawing his dream plane. I couldn’t help but cry. I tried so hard to hold back my tears, which were from pure joy for such a beautiful person with such pure and happy hopes. But also they were tears because his dream is so out of reach. But it is not hopeless. Perhaps before TYO when Islam was just another lost kid who spent most of his time getting yelled at and sent away. But Islam isn’t the trouble-maker anymore. He is just Islam: a boy who wants to fly. TYO let Islam just be Islam and find himself and his hopes so that he did not have to negatively reach out for attention
It may be a long road before Islam can start the engine to that plane. But there is hope. And sometimes that’s all you need to plant the seed.