Our work continues in Northern Iraq
“My son is doing much better now than a few months ago. When we began our new lives after fleeing, he was very unsure and anxious. The work with the German emergency pedagogy team transformed his condition into the opposite. He is now almost like before.”
A mother from the refugee camp gave us this report. Since 2013 the Friends of Waldorf Education have been active in the refugee camps Berseve I and II in the autonomous region of northern Iraq. A team made up of local pedagogues, some of whom are themselves refugees, has been trained and works daily with children in the camps. After a somewhat uncertain time spent looking for a new cooperation partner, it is now definite: our work will continue in Iraq!
When we are out and about with our colleagues in the camps and the surrounding cities and villages, we are again and again addressed in German. Many of the refugees who live here had fled to Europe during the Iraq War between 2004 and 2008. After the end of the war the economy in their home country flourished and they returned home, before they had to flee again from the advancing Islamic State (ISIS). Today refuges with Syrian, Yazidi, Iraqi-Turkmen, and Kurdish roots live in the camps. Everywhere in the region of Dohuk one sees new tent cities and container collections grow because the living conditions of those, who have found no acceptance into the large camps and scrape out of living themselves in building ruins and improvised camps, are especially precarious. In addition new streams of refugees are expected daily, caused for example by fighting in and around the city of Mosul.
In the refugee camps the residents’ fear and loss of orientation are palpable. Even if some of their home regions were again liberated from ISIS, they could not return, because the supply system, infrastructure, houses, and the entire economic system have been completely destroyed. International aid is not forthcoming and therefore the per capita allowance had to be reduced by more than two thirds.
Cooperation with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ)
Again and again international aid organisation must adjust or discontinue their work due to a lack of financing possibilities, even though we can directly observe the need of the people. Therefore we are very happy that we were successful in finding a new reliable project partner in the German Society for International Cooperation (abbreviated GIZ); with whom we can further continue the work for another 12 months.
With the financing from GIZ our activities in Iraq can now also be expanded. In addition to the current team of local pedagogues, who work in the camps Berseve I and II, a second team will be added, which will work in the camp Chamishku after the summer break. Beforehand the local employees will receive an intensive training from our experts. Foundational elements and methods of emergency pedagogy, like rhythmisation of the daily schedule, beginning and closing circles, artistic work, movement games, and much more will be practiced together. The visits from the international and experienced emergency pedagogues will take place every two months and last two weeks, in order to enable the best possible support and training for the local pedagogues.
Additional foundations of the current project in Iraq are seminars with pedagogy students from the University of Dohuk, teachers in the camp schools, parents, and other interested parties. In order to ease the processing of their experiences for the children and to lessen trauma related disorders, it is very helpful when all adults in the children’s environment are trained in trauma pedagogy. In the seminars the basic themes of traumatisation, working with traumatised children, emergency pedagogy methods, but also self-care and mental hygiene are handled.
We wish that our work can in this way be supported by the entire society of the camps and can find application in daily life in the camps.
A local colleague told us this about his development: “We learned how to work with the children. At the beginning we had very little experience and we didn’t know what we should do. But with time we gained more self-trust and self-reliance through the trainings, so that today we create our own games. Unlike in the beginning, when we were still very shy, we can now also play and sing with the children.” Even though there is still much to do, we are pleased about our success in combining approaches from Waldorf pedagogy with local cultural practices which in turn provides us with a solid foundation for further work.