Project No.: 2018 – NTS – 001
We’ve known Mustafa for over a year now. He started coming to see us with his older brother in the winter months, and when we opened our center in April of 2017 he came every day on his own. Mustafa made himself right at home in ‘The Workshop’.
When we first started teaching Mustafa he used to attend classes with all the older boys, the only 11 year old in a class of 20-somethings. He was ready to learn. Soon, we started teaching Mustafa on his own. He was a little shy at first, but every day he began to open up more and more. It all began with reading books. Volunteers would sit on the bean bags and read for hours with Mustafa. Books about the world, cricket, chapter books… Each evening he took a book back to the camp, and the next day he would return it and take a new one. We received reports from his friends that he would read the books every night and receive help from the older boys with the words he didn’t know. Mustafa now has near perfect pronunciation and has a reading list two pages long on our reading club wall.
Mustafa is in Serbian school now. His English is constantly improving, as is his Serbian. He still comes to visit us as much as he can to attend workshops, read books and decorate the workshop with his spiderman drawings. His confidence has rocketed and he’s happy to speak to anyone, offering to make tea to the newcomers, as well as to the staff. He’s even brought a few Serbian friends with him. When we asked him what he liked most about The Workshop, he said, ‘It’s like family here.’
Mustafa, 11, is one of the refugees who attends The Workshop in Belgrade, Serbia; an educational and recreational center for refugees based in Belgrade awaiting asylum or to move forward to the EU. In April 2017, Refugee Aid Serbia and North Star founded the independent center as a project dedicated to promoting wellbeing and reducing the learning gap for refugees in Serbia.
Today, the Workshop serves roughly 20 refugees daily, providing English, Serbian, German, French, Math, Science and Art classes. The age of students ranges from 4 years old to 30 years old. Many students and volunteer teachers have come and gone since opening last April, but we are always ready to provide the best help we can to those who walk in the door. If that creates a family atmosphere, then we hope we’re doing something right.
The Workshop is looking to expand its impact to the refugee community in Belgrade via the purchase of a bus. In doing this, it would be possible to pick the students up from the camp and bring them to and from their classes. Additionally, for those students who are in school, instead of students having to ride the bus for an hour or more on public transport to reach the camp or the Workshop we could pick them up and bring them to the Workshop ourselves and then back home. This would add more structure and routine to their weeks and allow us to better coordinate with the students themselves and their teachers.
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