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Learning and Unlearning at UNWRA

Our visit to UNWRA was a late addition to our Dragons curriculum and what a fantastic addition it made. Each and every thing we did today was exceptional, with UNWRA being such an amazing experience the group decided to give it a Yak post of its own.

Today’s morning framing session had most of us verbalizing feelings of being ready to start the “work” of the course, deep-diving into the work of agencies which provide services to refugees. To start this task, we visited the headquarters of the United Nations Work and Relief Agency (often shortened to its acronym and said with beautiful, lilting inflection that is rarely seen with other acronyms). We had the opportunity to sit with 4 employees on the leadership team who work in various capatices at UNWRA and both learn and ask questions about the work being done by this agency. We learned about the amazing work done in terms of fostering development and the results had by the schools under UNWRA which have the ability to positively impacting the future of the region.

We left with a mix of emotions, confronted with the reality of the financial situation at UNRWA (and our feelings of embarrassment at being a part of a country that has withdrawn so much funding) but encouraged by the unfailing hope of the organization in their work and their fellow human beings.

During the second portion of our visit, we were fortunate enough to go to the UNWRA school in Wadi Seer a school run by UNRWA for Palestinian refugees. Here we experienced the following:

  • An amazing meeting with the principal and leadership of the school.
  • An energetic play performed by students about human rights, complete with musical and gymnastic accompaniment!
  • A reaffirming science class that reminded me of the joy that comes from teaching and learning.
  • An inspiring meeting with student parliamentarians who articulated their joy at being in school and expressed themselves so beautifully it made me embarrassed to the amount of times I use words like “cool”.

Beyond these these events, I think that most (if not all) of us were struck by something deep and profound. We had framed the day with the following quote:

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stori e can also repair the broken dignity of a people.” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adochie)

Whatever notions we came in with, each person was moved by something in our meetings with UNWRA. Much like the coffee (that was graciously brought to the principals office for us!) energized us, visiting UNWRA has reinvigorated and inspired us to bring this experience and knowledge back to our schools and forever be advocates of the message that #dignityispriceless.