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The Kindergarten Graduation

Some time ago, the Syrian moms of the camp requested a kindergarten for their children. Now, we celebrate the first class graduating, a kindergarten that is much more than an escape from the everyday struggle to survive.

This week we had the joy of graduating 25 Syrian kiddies from The Rainbow Zone Kindergarten. As most of you will recall, we have been working within the Syrian community, all asylum seekers, for the past four years, our focus being on the teens who are so very special and carry their own stories, some of which I have told.

More recently the Syrian Mamas, all very education oriented, came asking for a kindergarten as a preparation for school. We were actually reluctant to listen to them and part with our teens, but we gave it a shot, as they say, and on the way became overwhelmed by the opportunity to invest in these young lives.

Some of our 5 year olds were born in Syria and came to Kurdistan in the last year when parents fled for their lives. Some were born in the Kurdistan region, the first generation to be born outside Syria . All are being raised under the shadow of the atrocities suffered by the Kurdish community in Syria, the loss, the death and the weight of human devastation which our teens were able to express more than eloquently in their artwork.

We are new at kindergartens, but then we are new at everything we do, so it is a wonderful journey of adventure for us all, children and staff alike. For the Syrian kiddies, it is the first time to leave the very protective Mamas’ side. Mamas who have kept their children safe within their shadow and have sometimes taken the bullet as they lead them through death.

Mamas who once again, locked their windows and barricaded themselves and their families in as the threat of a new and unseen enemy approached, namely COVID 19. Mamas who have sacrificed much to see their children now safe in a kindergarten doing what kids of their age should do, being loved and nurtured with tenderness and in safety.

COVID 19 carried much fear into the community, during the days of lockdown it gave us time to think of ways to encourage both our kiddies and their watchful Mamas. A full graduation ceremony, gowns, caps, certificates and of course the obligatory super sweet gooey cake.

A trip was made into the city, with a search for graduation caps and gowns to honor our little big people. We came back quite a few hours later tired but satisfied with our purchases.

And from here, I hand the real story over to Mr. Love himself, Shex Khalid, and the wonderful Sahla and Kajen, whose hearts grow and expand daily as each child finds his special place in their hearts.

“The Rainbow Zone kindergarten is very important in the lives of our Syrian community. It is a struggling, disadvantaged community with unaddressed social needs and internal community and family pressures. The psychological needs of these young children can not be underestimated, each one is living under the shadow of death. Covid 19 has brought even more fear and isolation to these young children who were already isolated.
Our role is both to prepare them for school, and to integrate them into the community, to help them make friends, to lead them out of shyness and fear. Before we teach them anything, we have to prepare a safe place for them, based upon love and respect, upon listening and giving them dignity and opportunity. The opportunity cruelly taken from them by the war in Syria.
We are so glad to be given a chance, and the trust of the families to reverse some of the effects of war. We can not eradicate either personal or family memories but we can help the children to create restorative healthy memories that will become the building blocks for their future years. I wish to thank the Syrian community for accepting and trusting us with their precious children.
It was my heart’s desire to make graduation a very special day. Their community has suffered so much destruction so this was one way to bring them together, all wearing the same clothes, all unified, a community becoming strong and moving ahead together. Their smiles of joy and pride were dancing on their lips. Both the children and their parents will always remember this day, the day when life came back to them, when they were dressed with all the respect and dignity of graduates. This was a day celebrating both individual accomplishment and bringing healing and respect to the community.“

- Shex Khalid

“I have a vision for our Syrian Kindergarten community. Before we teach our children even one letter of the alphabet, it must be a home where each one is loved, each one is respected and each one is encouraged to develop to the fullest potential.
Our goal is to promote positive growth in their lives, to help develop their social, their emotional and physical abilities. These are children who carry many hidden internal scars. The scars from war. It would not be right to ignore these scars in favour of teaching at them from a white board. Preparation for school is so much about the healing of hearts, and the smoothing of scars. Each child is unique, and each child is special and they need to know this above all else.
We work with the families. The Mamas often come to hang out with us and we welcome that. Growth is an individual and group process. Healing often comes to the Mamas through their children.
It is always so hard to see the children leave. It was important for us to celebrate this next step for them, to encourage them to embrace a new part of their journey. The cap and the gown symbolise how special and valuable this day is, one to always remember, a milestone of achievement in their young life. “