‘A small positive experience may later turn out to be significant’
Last week, Nazime Tunç, second-year student in Education and Child Studies, launched the Facebook page ‘Refugee Children, USC, Leiden’. Nazime had heard via social media that a group of asylum seekers was to be hosted at the Leiden University Sports Centre, and she wanted to do something for the children.
‘Of course I follow the news about the influx of refugees from Syria, but until recently, I hadn’t done anything about it. Then I heard that the University was opening its doors to the refugees. Children tend to suffer most in these kinds of circumstances. I wanted to help them by playing with them, or simply by giving them some attention. Just as a small negative experience in early childhood can have a huge impact in later life, a small positive experience can also make a real difference in someone’s life. I believe that it’s very important to give children attention, and it is lovely to see all those radiant little faces.’
With help from others, within a short time Nazime’s Facebook page brought together a group of more than 100 students, all of whom wanted to do something for the children at the Sports Centre: ‘Both our group and the USC were suddenly faced with a "luxury" problem. There were so many volunteers that choices had to be made. Three of our students were invited to come and play with the children every evening. The Education and Child Studies department also supplied us with games and books, so we had lots of materials at our disposal!’
‘It was so strange to enter the main sports hall. I only remembered it as an examination hall, with lots of tables. Now it was filled with camp beds - rows and rows of them - and personal belongings. I thought I would be seeing a lot of sad people. At first glance this didn’t seem to be the case, but of course it’s hard to tell. You don’t know what goes on in their minds. We were advised not to ask them about their experiences in Syria. You never know what it might bring up.’
‘One of the small sports halls upstairs was specifically dedicated to children. This is where we played musical chairs. Since I don’t speak their language, it was quite difficult to explain the game. But once we had demonstrated it a few times, it went fine, and they happily joined in. A few of the girls were very shy. I’m not sure why, but once I gave them my undivided attention, they too were soon smiling.’
‘I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. First I have to study hard because I’ve neglected my studies this past week. In any case, I’m really grateful that I was able to share this experience with so many other students. And I’m now even more aware of what a luxury it is to live in freedom, and to have choices. I hope we were able to do something good for these children, something that might blossom into something even bigger and more beautiful. After all their suffering, they truly deserve it, don’t you think?’
Visit refugee children, USC, Leiden on Facebook
Asylum seekers hosted at University Sports Centre
Last week involved a lot of hard work as the University Sports Centre was equipped to accommodate the asylum seekers. In addition to the main sports hall, which is used as a sleeping hall, this required creating a living room and a dining room, as well as two recreation rooms, one for adults and one for children.