Education heals emotional scars of refugee children

By November 29, 2018

International (MNN) – Refugee children are finding healing in the arms of education.

“When people learn, when people begin to see that there is a future, then they want to learn because it’s something they can look forward to. So, it gives them hope, so it helps them kind of surface out of the present day into, ‘I’m learning for a better future for myself,’” Tent Schools International’s Dale Dieleman says.

With a focus on a future, education is helping kids to overcome their present and past tribulations, and it boosts their self-esteem and self-identity. Education is also giving them a goal for prosperity for themselves and their families.

“Education is a huge dose of medicine toward healing and sort of becoming again, what you might say, thinking holistically about their future.”

Tent Schools initiated a theme for their school programs to see healing in children’s lives called ‘Schools that Heal’.

This theme is working with teachers in tent schools as they identify where healing needs to take place and empower children who have recently restarted school.

“The teacher is our frontline triage person, you might say, and they really have a tough job because they have to discern what exactly is it that needs to be addressed first with this refugee child,” Dieleman says.

“It’s not just trying to find out where they are academically because they may have missed even years of schooling, although that is very important too.”

Teachers need to discern where children are in their education. However, they also need to assess if the child is dealing with PTSD, emotional afflictions, or any other problems in order to help them heal and eventually excel both personally and educationally.

“That’s why we refer to these as ‘schools that heal’. We are looking for and depending on the teachers to really be able to discern what is most important first so that that learning process might continue in as normal a way as possible. We see these as schools that heal emotionally. Schools that heal anxiety about academics in that way, but there’s also a deep underlying spiritual healing that needs to take place.”

Healing Spiritually

Dieleman says a lot of the refugee children may not be from a Christian background, but on a spiritual level, they have deep-seated issues regarding trusting authority and others they believed they could depend on, but in the end, couldn’t.

“For example, in the Christian faith, we are so dependent on God,” Dieleman says.

“We trust God and you can imagine children, particularly Christian children too that would [say], ‘I don’t trust anybody anymore,’ and that goes all the way to whether they can trust when people say, ‘trust God. He’ll help you, be with you.’”

Children have felt betrayed and let down by God and others. As a result, they don’t think they can trust anyone anymore.

Tent Schools are helping to rebuild that trust on a spiritual level.

“That I think is one of the key components to being able to go on with their academic life. Their hopes and dreams, that being a refugee is not a label that they carry with them for the rest of their lives either internally or externally, and, I think that is one thing that they will also be able to overcome.”

Tent Schools is showing children that God knows, cares for, and loves them, and they’re reaching out to parents as well.

Dieleman says teachers send notes to parents to encourage them and to share that their children are doing well in their studies.

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International via Facebook)

Seeds of Promise

Education that is healing is imperative to not only children, but also to refugees’ host countries and home countries.

“We see them as the ones who will rebuild their nation,” Dieleman says.

“They’re the ones who have had an opportunity to continue their learning whereas their peers in their home countries perhaps have not had any opportunity for schooling during that time because their schools have been destroyed and teachers are often targets of political issues.”

Dieleman says with every child returning to their home nation or even staying in their host country, there is a seed of promise and hope that something valuable will grow. They will have a different view of the world and see what their nation can be like.

Support Tent Schools and refugee children through financial giving and through prayer. Find prayer requests from refugee children and others on Tent Schools’ virtual Prayer Tent.



Header photo courtesy of Tent Schools International via Facebook.

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