Finding Peace in Diversity and Collaboration

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace. It’s a day set aside to collectively pause and reflect on what we are doing or can do to bring people together, a timely need in today’s fractious world. As the new director of Roshan Learning Center, it offers an opportunity for me to consider how we at Roshan promote peace.

It doesn’t take long to see that Roshan Learning Center is truly a community-based program. First arriving two months ago, I was impressed to see that the refugee community is involved at all levels of the organization as managers, students, teachers, advocates and community liaisons. What is even more impressive is that these individuals are giving their time as volunteers. I was curious to know just how much time they give as volunteers, so I calculated their hours and was surprised to see that individuals from the refugee community give over 400 hours each week to keeping Roshan running. This is a staggering number. And this is just for those who are filling official roles; it doesn’t include those who help as chaperones, translators and substitutes.

Refugee service, however, is only part of how Roshan makes such a strong impact. What makes Roshan truly unique is the refugee community’s collaboration with local and international communities in Jakarta. Roshan has Indonesian staff and volunteers helping as teachers, administrators and community liaisons. Additionally, over 20 volunteers from the international community–Australia, India, the U.S., the Netherlands–help as English teachers, soft skills teachers, administrators and mentors for refugee teachers. This widely diverse staff offer students the chance to learn and grow in a truly diverse, supportive, and global community.

This collaboration was on full display this past week as the parents of our preschool students met with teachers to discuss the progress of their children. I sat in on some of these parent-teacher meetings and was struck by the range of individuals involved, each playing their part to make sure our students are served well. I watched as Arianne, an experienced teacher from Indonesia, shared with a father about what his daughter Zahra has been learning in class and on the playground. Hanifa, a manager from Afghanistan, helped translate and share ideas with the father about how he can help his daughter succeed in school. Aline, a teaching assistant from the Netherlands shared about class learning goals for English. Finally, Zahra’s parent gave some tips on things Zahra loves to do at home, which might engage her further in the classroom as well.

This kind of ongoing, international collaboration provides an extraordinary set of opportunities for the children at Roshan. A given student gets to learn Bahasa Indonesia, the national language in Indonesia. She has multiple adults supporting her to learn English and make progress in her English literacy skills as well, while also learning to write in Farsi, her home language. She has help from a range of supportive adults to decode the mysterious and diverse cultural expectations surrounding her. Moreover, with her parent’s direct involvement, she receives the support she needs at home to grow and learn.

This seems like a remarkable way to promote peace. Working together as international colleagues and respecting a variety of viewpoints, deepening understanding across the cultures, classes and age groups that comprise our student body, and strengthening ties between teachers and families are fundamental starting points for promoting peace.

The future of refugee children is full of unknowns, but with experiences in a welcoming, diverse environment, they’re becoming equipped to thrive regardless of where they may land. As the newest member of the Roshan team, I am thrilled to see this happening already and look forward to contributing my part in this uniquely collaborative community.