Abby Grilli (24 from Chicago) and Kim McDonagh (23 from Boston) have been teaching children living at City Plaza every Wednesday afternoon since November.
Why did you come to City Plaza to teach?
Our roommates told us about City Plaza. We’re working full-time as primary school teachers in Athens and love to work with children. Seeing as we’re living here for a while, we worked a regular class at City Plaza into our schedule.
We felt that we really couldn’t live here, in a place where the refugee crisis is so prominent, without getting involved somehow.
How does a typical lesson with the kids here go?
We make sure that the classes are as active as possible. We usually start with introducing new vocabulary and then revolve the class around these words.
There’s always a theme. We want to teach topics that are really useful for the children. We always teach through games and use crafts and activities that focus on visual aids and acting out words and ideas alongside the new language.
Are there any challenges you face teaching at City Plaza?
Attendance is always an issue. Sometimes the children have appointments with their families or different reasons that they can’t come to class. It’s important to create as much consistency as we can.
Another challenge is transitioning between activities in class. The kids here get so absorbed in the activities, which is great! But it does mean that we have to keep up the pace and change between activities to create routine.
What do enjoy about your classes at City Plaza?
The children are always so happy (laughs). They’re always so happy! It’s really inspiring to see their energy. They’re excited to learn and they’re so engaged.
I love walking into this building. The atmosphere is very warm here. Walking up the stairs to the classroom (the classroom is on the 7th floor), we stop and talk to families and children. From day 1 I felt so welcome.
Spending time here you can see that a sense of community has been created at City Plaza.
How did today’s class go?
We introduced the vocabulary surrounding professions, ‘teacher’, ‘chef’, ‘pilot’, ‘policeman’. And encouraged the children to think about their futures, what they want to do when they grow up.
As in every class, we use clapping patterns and Simon Says to engage the children whenever concentration dies down a bit. It was a really great class today.
What has been your favourite moment in class?
It has to be Wednesday. Saber, one of the regular students to the class, waiting at the door of the classroom. No students arrived to the class, only him. He was wearing a new red rucksack which he was so proud of. He was so excited.
We asked him if he wanted us to teach him alone and he said yes. He opened his bag and he had his books and everything so neatly organised inside. I’ve never seen such an organised bag! He was so excited to learn. This was such a precious moment.
We did a class a few weeks back about feelings. The children had to write what made them feel happy and sad. It was really beautiful to see that every single child related their feelings to their families. For ‘sad’ many children wrote about missing family members and for ‘happy’ they wrote about their family being together.
Another great thing that we love to see is when a group of boys who come to class engage. We see them in the corridors and persuade hem to come. They’re always reluctant to come to class. But when they come, they’re so great. They really engage. It’s like ha! I told you you’d enjoy it! It’s great to see them happy in the classroom and using all their energy to learn English
3 words to describe City Plaza:
Community, inspiration, strength
Hope, safety, compassion
For City Plaza to stay open and continue to house and support the 400 refugees living here, donations from around the world are essential. For you why is it important for people around the world to donate?
City Plaza is really a place where people come together. This is what solidarity means, for us all to come together to support each other.
Something that is so clear at City Plaza is that refugees living here get to live like humans, in dignity. It’s not like that in the camps. People here have a place to call home.
It’s so inspiring working with these children. They have so much to offer this world. In this place they have a platform to discover who they are, how to speak with different people, how to make many friends. It’s so important that this place stays open.
However small or big your donation, every little will help. Everyone at City Plaza thanks you for your kindness and support in helping us to continue to live and work together in our home, to continue to live here in peace, togetherness and solidarity.
Donate here: http://www.youcaring.com/keepcityplazaopen