Two of our international volunteers, Melanie and Sina, from Switzerland and Germany, have spearheaded an initiative to provide different language activities to the community volunteers – camp residents who volunteer with A Drop in the Ocean. Prior to Melanie and Sina’s arrival in February, the language project was still in its infancy and limited to English lessons only. It now encompasses both French and German language activities.
“We started by providing the community volunteers with some English language material, some worksheets, which are distributed every Tuesday. We then decided to hand out French and German worksheets for the ones who want to learn these languages, as some of the residents are likely to end up in French-, or German speaking countries,” says Melanie and Sina.
The way in which the lessons are structured allows for a level of flexibility crucial to create an atmosphere conducive for the residents to learn in the best possible way. The tasks in the worksheet encourage community volunteers to speak to, seek help and learn from their international co-volunteers. At the end of the week, the worksheets are collected and checked.
Flexible learning in challenging circumstances
One-to-one lessons take place on the ground, the beach or wherever and whenever there is space and time for learning. During laundry pick-up and drop-off, a service offered by A Drop in the Ocean, community volunteers practice basic grammar in writing down names and numbers on the labels, and basic communication in speaking and listening to the international volunteers.
Lessons are adapted to meet the needs of each community volunteer and range from basic grammar practice to reading novels and working on more advanced material. The international volunteers try to make the lessons fun and empowering to provide some welcome relief from the everyday struggles of living in a refugee camp.
“For us it is about providing the basics to speak a new language, which means having an easier start for their new life. When they [residents] move out of the camp, they will have to deal with a completely new country, where a different language is spoken,” Melanie and Sina says.
“We also learn some basic Farsi from the community volunteers. This helps us connect and remind us how hard it is to learn a new language, especially one with a different alphabet and structure!”
The around 7000 residents in Kara Tepe have fled war, persecution, and conflict from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, and Iraq. The site itself was set up after much of the Moria camp burned down in September last year. Camp residents live in tents and there are continuously frequent disease outbreaks, such as scabies and lice due to the difficult conditions.
A Drop in the Ocean has restricted access to the site but operate a laundry service for the majority of the camp residents in co-operation with the organisation The Dirty Girls of Lesvos. Due to the large population of the camp, the sustainability of the project relies heavily on precise organisation and communication between all members of the team: coordinators, international volunteer field workers, and community volunteers. Community volunteers, in particular, are a vital component in the “Drop” laundry machine.