Mpls. teacher works with Syrian children

Minneapolis teacher works with Syrian children

MINNEAPOLIS - More than five million people have fled Syria during the country's civil war, nearly half of them children who had to leave school.

A Minneapolis teacher is sharing her experience of teaching Syrian children --  who have grown up knowing nothing but war. "Some of them have been through so much in their lives," said Ashley Karlsson who like many of us has seen the images of the Syrian civil war.

The Washburn High School English teacher heard about the need for educators at Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon.

"Of the more than a million Syrian refugees who've come into Lebanon more than half of those are children of school age. So you have half a million school age children who have been introduced into the Lebanese school system and the Lebanese school system has less than half a million Lebanese students so a lot of these schools are trying to run double shifts," said Karlsson.

And this summer, she volunteered to help. And she says the experience was unforgettable.
"I was incredibly impressed by the resilience of these students a lot of them have experienced  really severe trauma," said Karlsson.

For four weeks, she taught English to a group of 5 and 6 year old kids. Many who she says have never been to school before and have grown up only knowing the lesson of war.
She says they spent each day doing science projects, arts and crafts projects and perhaps the most important, peace building work. 

"For me this activity was really special," she said.

She says an activity called the "Tree of Dreams" was special because it instilled hope. "And for some students it was a dream of being a doctor or a lawyer, for other students it was a dream of having their own home again and for a lot of them that displacement has been hard." Karlsson says she's unsure if she will return to Lebanon next summer, but she is now encouraging educators to volunteer if they can. "So I think it's very important for people to be aware of the situation and if people can help out there's a need."

Karlsson volunteered through a non-profit called Jusoor. It is an organization dedicated to empowering Syrian refugee children through education. It has several programs within Lebanon which is home to over one million Syrians. 

© 2017 KARE-TV


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