My family is European, and we travel to Europe almost every summer. Over the last few years, we became more and more aware of the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian War and its effects on European countries and citizens. In addition to reading and hearing about the crisis through the news, we also learned about it through friends we have abroad. This was something we could no longer ignore.
Although opinions about whether one should take in and help refugees are mixed, my family decided we wanted to help in any way we can. After all, we live comfortable lives while hundreds of thousands of people are being killed and millions of women and children are being displaced by the heinous conflict going on in Syria.
In early 2016, I got to learn of a local organization, Humanwire, that helps refugees find sponsors and sends much needed supplies to displaced Syrian families. We met with the founder, Andrew Baron, and expressed our desire to help out and do something more than simply send money and supplies. After much planning and discussing, we finally decided that we would volunteer teaching at a small school in Lebanon the upcoming summer.
My father, Peter, a computer and electrical engineering professor at CU Boulder, decided he wanted to teach the children how to do simple programming on a small and basic computer called Raspberry Pi. My mother, Elena, a local piano teacher, decided to teach the children about music, specifically about rhythm, musical notes, orchestral music, composers, and how to play something very basic on the piano. For this, we had to purchase and bring with us four electric keyboards. My siblings, Xenia and Vadim, and I, Peter Jr., decided we would teach English, Internet skills, and help supervise outdoor activities. However, the Internet skills class never happened because there weren’t enough computers for all the kids and the internet was very weak.
Our trip (late May to early June) to Lebanon was just under 14 days, seven of which were spent with the children. It was our first time in the Middle East as a family, and it was all very interesting and eye-opening. The culture and language was quite different than what we were used to on our trips to Europe. But to help facilitate communication between us and the locals/refugees, we began learning Arabic as a family in January 2016.