We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
By Virginia Cady
AUA Communications and Social Media Intern
On Friday, Hannah D’Apice of T.W. Browne Middle School embarked on a journey to Aceh, Indonesia where she will volunteer with the Sukma Bangsa School in the town of Pidie. Over the last couple of months, Browne and the Sukma Bangsa School have partnered together in Creative Learning’s , School-2-School program.
The School-2-School program enables young people from the U.S. and the Muslim World to learn about each other’s countries and to directly engage with each other in order to learn about different cultures. The program also involves spreading ideas about other cultures to the surrounding community, supporting the partner school in the Muslim World through donations for school supplies, and sending the U.S. teacher to the partner school to volunteer as a teacher over the summer.
Hannah’s class of 6th grade students has enjoyed skyping their new friends in Indonesia. The topic ranged from what the students liked to do for fun, to their favorite music and their favorite animals. The Browne students also organized a book drive to collect books for the Sukma Bangsa Schools’ new library. As a special part of this partnership, Hannah’s students had the opportunity to meet with the Indonesian Consul General in Houston who came to their school on June 4 and spoke with them about Indonesia.
Hannah has both personal and professional goals for her trip to Aceh. Personally she hopes to absorb as much as she can about daily life in Indonesia and experience it to the fullest. Along with this Hannah views her role as one of “educational sharing” in that she hopes to interact with the students and teachers as well as both learn from and teach them. At the same time, she is nervous about her ignorance of the culture and the potential to accidently be disrespectful. Aceh is very different from Dallas, many people who reside there have seen trauma and conflict as a result of natural disasters and political problems.
Professionally Hannah hopes that the experience of teaching English as a foreign language will help her overall as a teacher as she has several students who do not speak English as a first language. Hannah hopes to be better able to address the needs of these students after teaching in a different environment. As she said, no matter where it is, teaching in a new environment “forces you to adapt.” Her colleagues have even provided her with a list of questions they have about the school, its teachers and life in Indonesia. Additionally, Hannah noted that “as a teacher, I am most interested in learning about best practices for the profession from my colleagues in Indonesia. I hope to bring back what I have learned to my own community so that we can apply these lessons to improve our own practice.”
Overall Hannah raved about the benefits of the School-2-School program not only for herself, but mainly for her students.”The S2S program has opened my students’ eyes to a completely new country and culture. Most of my students had never heard of Aceh before and knew very little about Indonesia. Being able to interact directly with students at the Sukma Bangsa School in Aceh has broadened their understanding of the world and the diversity of the human experience.” Beyond this, she has noticed other positive impacts of the exchanges on her students. She mentioned the book drive and how wonderful it was to see her students to “unite” around a common cause and feel “empowered” to help others.
Hannah has high hopes for a continued involvement with the School-2-School program, which would ideally expand to include the 7th and 8th grade in the coming years.
Most importantly, Hannah stressed the fact that no matter where in the world you are, students are the same , which is exemplified by the interactions between her students in Dallas and the students in Aceh. This view exemplifies the main goal of the School-2-School program, that through citizen diplomacy we can build relationships across cultures that focus on our similarities and uniqueness, not the stereotypes.