Image credit: iStock.com/RadekProcyk
On April 4th, BC TEAL launched a nationwide campaign in celebration of Refugee Rights Day. This campaign connected the relationship between security of person to a sense of belonging and inclusion in our diverse communities – not just for refugees, but for all individuals. It included webinars and an activity package for teachers and was intended to highlight our commonalities and the importance of feeling safe and accepted for who we are.
How do you apply an intercultural lens to Refugee Rights Day? It starts with how people identify themselves and how they identify others. The EAL classroom provides a primary community, and a good place to start strengthening that sense of community is by getting to know each other. We often don’t know much about each other’s cultural background, ways of doing things or personal histories. In a classroom context, teachers making time and space for the group to be curious about and open to each other is key to modelling and growing intercultural sensitivity as well as to prepare learners to find greater acceptance in the community at large. This ability is as important as language if our goal is to promote healthy, inclusive and diverse communities.
These themes seem weighty, but the activities provided in BC TEAL’s Refugee Rights Day Activity Package were intended to foster a feeling of commonality while at the same time acknowledging difference in an enjoyable way. They also aimed to raise awareness of what inclusion, community and diversity mean to our students and to explore how we can “do” these in our daily interactions.
Jennifer: “Initially, students wondered so why are we talking about this? Yes, it was Refugee Rights Day, but these are all broader themes. Students said ‘we’re really glad we’re learning this. It helps me think differently. It’s important to learn about’. It was neat – the next day we had a refugee student enter the class and is now a part of our classroom community.”
Augusta: “I like to share my own identity story as someone who came to a new country. It doesn’t matter what the reason is for you being here. You are here now and it’s a difficult time, but there are commonalities… I wanted this activity package to be about all of us.”
Debra: “The whole experience was very positive… It gave a better sense of what diversity is and how we can be included because we do have things in common. It opened the door to other possibilities, to meeting new people and other Canadians. That we can see beyond what’s on the outside.”
Leanna: ‘The student’s especially liked being divided into groups to work on their poster board that reflected what they deemed as “Social Inclusion”. They liked the creativity, the visuals, the variety and freedom of choice, cutting, pasting and overall enjoyment of working together to create a positive message as a group.”
Tanya: “I did have refugees in the class and they were okay with the pictures. I felt comfortable because my parents were refugees also, so I talked about my parents living in a camp for 3 years. I thought it was nice to finish with an optimistic picture – Welcome to Canada!”
To access the package and accompanying image bank, please visit (https://www.bcteal.org/about/initiatives/refugee-rights-day/). Good luck on your intercultural journey and, if you do use the materials, we’d love to hear from you.
For the full article, please see the summer BC TEAL Newsletter (https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/TEAL-News-Summer-2017.pdf)
Taslim Damji is the developer of BC TEAL’s Refugee Rights Day package. She has an MA from King’s College, London and two decades of international teaching, teacher training, and research experience. Taslim is the manager of Intercultural Trainings through MOSAIC Works.