1 Ağustos 2016 Pazartesi

A Universal School: Servas Antakya Peace School

A Universal School ; Servas Peace School
Antakya, Turkey
Antakya Peace School is located in a large garden with orange, figs, pomgranate trees and vegetable in Ekinci(Aydiy), Antakya, Turkey not far from the border with Syria. The school is not only in the gardens but also the streets, house yards and any free spaces are parts of the school. Servas members from the village, Turkey and abroad work as volunteers at this school which takes place every summer between July 6-16th. The volunteers are the people who transfer the world knowledge, culture, art, and peace ideas to the kids. The volunteers also get the chance of experiencing the rich multicultural life style of Antakya which has been collected throughout history, the life of the village and share their experiences with local people at the same time.
At this school, there is no formality,  no curriculum, no registration, no fee,  no school budget and
furtermore attendance is not compulsory. There is a collaboration among children rather than competition. And most importantly, every child is given equal opportunities.There is a direct mutual learning, sharing experiences, language learning and cultural exchange all the time. What subjects are  taught at this Peace School? Actually, the volunteers teach the children whatever they know. However, the basic subjects of the program are peace and cultural exchange. Servas Antakya Peace School is based on the topic of "Peace". Ttopic that is usually neglected by the regular schools. Peace with different cultures, languages, religions, peace with nature,  animals... Antakya Peace School aims to introduce these values to the kids in their early ages of lives.
What is Servas?
Servas is a non-governmental organization that aims to have intercultural peace and tolerance in the world and it disregards any race, language and religion discriminations. The Servas members host each other while travelling and they discover the culture they have living together. So it creates the sense of peace among people.
This year, in spite of the ongoing war in our neighbor country, Syria, and the bomb attacks in our country, we managed to come together again for the 8th year of the school. Every day, we met children in the gardens of Servas Campus, on the streets and in the olive gardens. We organized a program including activites, games workshops and demonstrations so that they could look at the world through the eyes of peace. It was very important for us to keep Peace School work again this year despite wars and violence around us. So Peace School would allow children have a peaceful breathe, see the beauties around them, strenghten their belief that there is still chance for peace.
Most of the Servas volunteers who were going to come from abroad cancelled their coming because
of the violence aroused in our country just a few days before the Peace School started. It was something understandable. Only one volunteer, Ana Maria from Colombia was able to attend the program. High school and university students who grew up at the Peace School in the village took part in as volunteers. The result was great. They shared whatever they knew with the kids, they became models for  the children of the village and they gained a nice experience at the end of the school. The Peace School children welcomed an ambitious cinema student, a good photographer, a mosaic art teacher, a sculptor, teachers and musicians as volunteers.
Around 80 children of the village called Ekinci (Aydiy)  attended the Peace School activities this
summer. Although the children were on summer holiday, they woke up and crawled towards the Peace School like snails very early every morning. They started the day with the creative drama activities, traditional games accompanied by Latin dances and Spanish words of Ana Maria under the grape and promgranate trees. They learned the different versions of "Peace",  "Good Morning", "Love", and "Colours" in the different languages of the world.Watching the documentary about Colombia with Ana Maria,  they got to know a distant culture and dreamt to travel to this exotic country one day. And, just like every year, the awareness of their own culture increased while learning about different cultures. The university student, Selen, conducted a multilingual chorus consisting of  children and they created a cheerful atmosphere at the Peace School with the songs in the local languages of
Antakya; Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Hebrew, Kurdish and also Spanish. The kids took their first step to a life with no prejudice in their early ages singing songs in many languages. Selen expressed her feelings as follows ; "I have realized that I find myself with these kids. We produce many beautiful things together with them. I can say that the Peace School meant a lot to me". The doctor volunteers Ahmad and Kudret, who are also the musicians of the multilingual chorus, both played instruments and had fun as well as talking deeply about medicine and human body with the children.
The children became familiar with an ancient art of Antakya, mosaic art, with the mosaic teacher, Halide who practiced this work with pleasure and passion. The children learnt about the mosaic art developed by the Sassanids, Byzantiums, Romes every morning. They met at the workshop around
the teacher, broke the stones into pieces, replaced them patiently and eventuallly got the shape of Peace. An instructor from the university in Antakya, Ediz held a sculptor workshop for the children. The little hands produced lots of statutes about peace, travelling, human and love of nature. The volunteers and the kids painted faces of one another with mud and enjoyed learning while having fun.
The cinema student, Hazal and the photographer, Mahmut who attended the program from İzmir, taught the children how to shoot a short film
from the beginning till the end. Shooting their own films by themselves created such an exciteful atmosphere that the streets, orange and palm groves, houses turned into a set. While they were shooting some scenes of the films, funny things
happened, as well. For instance, an woman working in the garden rushed to help a child, Diyar lying
on the ground and screaming "Help!". In her local language, Arabic, she shouted "Şü sor fiki bitte?  Ene honi.(What happened to you,  daughter? I am here.)" We watched the completed versions of the
short films together with all the children and families on the big screen we set in the evenings. Seeing these beautiful products, the kids built great confidence. They realised that cinema and photography can be good options in their lives. The families had difficulty in believing that their children could write these scripts and film them. The children attending the photographic works took the photos of the villagers preparing foods for winter, the fruits growing in the gardens and the portraits of local people. They got the chance to know their village from a different point of view.
Playing the traditional games is one of the most entertaining activities at school. Children played the Middle Eastern games on streets together. They enjoyed the togetherness and moved away from
computer games for a while. They made new friendships while playing on streets. They ran, sweat, their knees bled and they went to the house exhausted every evening. Kids sometimes ate the cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, and plums growing in the gardens of the school. It was a school integrated with life, nature, local and global values.
The high school students Derya, Tuana and Esra studying at English department worked with children patiently and put the fantastic ideas on recycling into practice. Toys, musical instruments and spaceships were just a few examples of these products. The parents' views about their volunteer children were also amazing. Derya 's mother, Makbule said; "My daughter would not normally wake up before 12 p.m. in the
summer time. But, once Servas Peace School starts, she gets up very early and rushes to leave home with great ambition every day. What happened to this girl? Did you make any magic, Mehmet?" I smile. Deniz, who has always been next to me for eight years now was a great help and always ready to fill the gaps like a member of first aid team. Serhat took the photos and videos of all the activities running around  the Peace School Campus. While conducting the coordinatorship of the school, I had also the opportunity to introduce children Servas, child rights,  environmental issues. The feedback was satisfying. From time to time, I got them watch videos related to different cultures, art and nature. I taught them new words in different languages with games to raise awareness every day. Another volunteer, English teacher Davut, created a mini orchestra from children teaching them to make flut
es and clarions from reeds.. The sounds of the instruments added joy and pleasure to the school campus.
Children enjoy theatre all around the world. Theatre is playing, entertainment, language and life. A university student, Nesibe, brought out a short Arabic play with children creating great excitement and enthusiasm in children. By the way children of the village are bilingual (Arabic&Turkish). The play was presented to the families and children at the Servas Peace Party. It drew lots of attention and developed big sensitivity in terms of protecting local languages.  Nisan, Mevsim and other volunteers worked in groups with children and monitored them to create t
heir own peace associations with the objectives, logos and posters. Eight years of Peace School experience taught us something. Peace can be learned. Moreover, it is easier to learn peace during childhood.
How about introducing kids feminism? Is it possible? If you have the book called “The Book of a Little Feminist” and a good volunteer teacher like Ferdus, surely, the children can understand the equality of the genders, in other words, Feminism. Nice conversations which enabled children express their ideas freely were held in the shade of the pomegranate trees with the children of the village and sometimes with their mothers. They told the examples of gender discrimination they observe in their own lives, in their country and the world. Any topic can be discussed at the Peace School considering their age and level. Most of the topics neglected by the regular schools are introduced at the Servas Peace School.
While the children at the Peace School were having fun and are exposed to the universal values, what
were the Syrian children doing and how about their feelings? The Peace School children, gathering in groups among the olive trees with the volunteers discussed and shared their feelings about this issue. They tried to put themselves in place of Syrian children. We listen to Arda (9-year-old) ; "Syrian children are either working or begging on streets. Actually, we can collect blue caps and then buy toys for them". Lila (8-year-old) continues ; "Syrians come here because there is a war in their country. Their homes are destroyed". I think the adults need to hear these children. Ege(11-year-old) is trying to cope with the fear of war. "Sometimes, I can not sleep at nights. I am afraid of bombs will be dopped on our
home." I was happy to witness that children have great ability of emphaty. War in Syria is being
experienced as fear in Antakya and the other border towns. And under these conditions, Peace School is trying to cope with these feelings and keep the faith of peace in the heart of children.
Ana Maria built good relationship with the children and local families despite her limited English. However her smiling face was enough to communicate. As we do every year, we organized a city tour of Antakya for the volunteers. We introduced them the multicultural life style of Antakya, its different religions, ancient architecture, the old bazaar called Suk Al Tavil and the unique flavors of Middle East. We told Ana Maria the tradition of tolerance in Antakya with the help of a scene we witnessed by chance. The bride and groom coming to the church door noticed that the church was on lunch break. At that moment, the bride says ; "Seeing that the church is closed, let's go the mosque".

We are helping the children build up their own dreams at Servas Peace School. We know that their dreams are colourful and unlimited. We try to open new windows and introduce them options on how to make their dreams come true. It is impossible to tell how much Servas volunteers coming from Colombia, India, Russia, New Zealand, Spain, Belgium, Iran and many more countries and other Servas volunteers coming from different cities of Turkey have enriched the children's dreams, knowledge and lives for eight years now.
Children, volunteers and local people like the Servas Peace School. Would not it be wonderful to organise more Peace Schools in different corners of the world within Servas?
Mehmet Ateş
Servas Peace School Coordinator
Facebook: “Servas Peace School”
Translated by the local volunteer Selen Karataş

We appriciate it.