FIRST EXPERIENCE COUNTS A LOT
He who gets stung by a bee for the first time in life and gets a swollen face for a day, will fear and may even hate bees for the rest of his life. However, considering what the bee offers to humans and creation and a whole, it does not deserve to be hated. And after all, it has got one of the sweetest elements on earth. This shows how first experience counts much.
I never dreamt of working with the Bedouin community in my life even though I have heard about them many a times. However, I had the first inspiration from the encounter with a group of Germans who went for a friendly football activity with the youth of the Bedouins of Azaria. I was invited by a friend (Fr. Thomas Maier) to be part of the spectators but I ended up playing for the German team against the Bedouin’s team. We managed to score some few goals but suffered a good defeat. Nevertheless, winning or not winning from the German was not the priority from the impression I got. The stress was on the friendly and cordial visit, to know and to strengthen their solidarity to the whole Bedouin community. There, I also saw the warmth reception and collaboration >from the Bedouin community with the help of Anna the coordinator. From this first encounter, sprang my inner desire and motivation to reach out to this community, but the what and how could it be done, was not clear to me.
As a student in formation with the Society of Missionaries of Africa known as “White Fathers” studying Theology in Jerusalem, we are appointed to different institutions or organizations to do some apostolic activities. The aim normally is to be with the underprivileged, discriminated or those suffering from injustices in the society. I was then asked if I could reach out to the Bedouin community of Azaria, and my respond was a big “Yes”. Many thanks go to Anna with her great spirit of organization. I also admire her patience and simplicity in dealing with a race of different culture, mentality, ideology and not also forgetting their different personalities (I mean the Bedouin race). Anna agreed to the demand made by my superiors to help out there. I was well received by the whole community and I do go their on Saturdays afternoon after my lectures to spend 3 hours. I do teach English and coach a football team of children from the ages of 12 to 14 years. It is satisfying to see young and energetic Bedouin children not only playing together but getting acquainted with the whole discipline surrounding football game, necessary for human growth and maturity. Some of these disciplines include:
- Respect for oneself, for others and for Allah.
- A sense of team spirit instead of individualism as an adage which says “a straw of a broom can not sweep unless they are put together”. Together as a team we can do better. --Cleanliness is also important. We do clean the football ground which is often filled with sachets, papers and stones before starting the game.
We do our best to promote all these values for our own team and human growth. Thanks so much to Hendrik a German volunteer whom we collaborate together to give in our best. His presence alone motivates the children and especially with his little Arabic which has helped us a lot and is evolving.
So far so good, I have said many things, but that does not mean that everything is Christmas for us, we have got some challenges. Personally, I am a bit handicapped because of the language barrier. The local people do speak Arabic which I am yet to learn. Curious people may ask, how do I manage to communicate to these kids in front of this barrier? To satisfy your curiosity, there is always an elderly Bedouin who understand English (Abu-Hassan) who stays with us to do the translation. Another challenge is the cultural barrier. To tackle this for the moment, the same elderly Bedouin who stays with us knows his people better than we do, knows how and what to tell them. They have got different ways of interpreting and reacting to reality which can only be addressed by one who is conversant with that. There was some misunderstanding as well between elderly boys and the elders because of the football field. The elderly boys wanted to play at the same time as the children on the same ground. I interpret it positively as a reaction of the progress the realized in the team of the children, which they equally want to have the same. Thus, having weighed my joy, sorrows and motivations in general, I can not help myself reaching out to such people as long as I live. We need your presence to encourage us.
Text: Jonathan Wyok BAHAGO
Fotos: Hendrik Dürr