Our classes broke with the regular rhythm of art, drama, and sports this Wednesday and Thursday for Racing the Planet-themed games, to connect our kids with the race that Usama Malik is running on their behalf. With face paint and team cheers, we got the kids excited to compete against their partner classes. The day’s activities taught teamwork and good sportsmanship – lessons that Nawal and Laura, who teach sports, have been seeking to instill throughout their classes but that many of the kids still struggle with. During the three-legged race, for instance, some pairs collapsed into mutual accusations by the time they crossed the finish line. With regards to good sportsmanship, more than a few students pouted when they were eliminated from a game.
But we also saw the accusations and the pouting as evidence of how deeply immersed students were in the games and how passionately they came to feel about them. Most importantly, all students emerged from the day feeling that their team had won. Maybe it was the fact that each team won an award at the end of the day – “best spirit,” “most enthusiastic,” “best teamwork,” “fastest team” – but we think it had just as much to do with the team spirit of the day. We could see how much the children loved the sense of belonging that came with being part of a team, face paint, cheers and all. With the competitive nature of the games, the dormant spirit of collaboration was awakened within our students. There was one objective and nothing was going to get in their way of winning. We saw unlikely pairs team up during the three-legged race with enthusiastic cheering accompanying the participants from the sidelines. Their team spirit was fortified after every win and even after the disillusion of a loss; most students were still able to maintain decorum and give it their all the next turn
It made us appreciate that beyond teaching the children art, sports, and drama skills, and working with them on a psychosocial level, what we are really doing at TYO is redefining community for them. Together, we have created a new community for them to be a part of: one that transcends the boundaries of their families, their camps, their neighborhood schools, and even their country, and gives them the chance to identify with – and to cheer for – children they might never have known otherwise.
This afternoon completely devoted to fun and games was also a revelation in new personality traits for all. Interacting with our students in this context allowed us to bond on a different level that is sometimes hindered by the usual student-teacher interactions. Community, for students and interns alike, has even come to transcend the boundaries of nationality, as we have formed cross-cultural relationships that will linger with us even the buses leave for the last time next week.