At the beginning of August, 70 Jordanian children from the village of Husn had the chance to live an exceptional summer camp supervised by young Jordanian volunteers and five volunteers from SOS Chrétiens d'Orient. Between aquatic, musical and manual activities, they took advantage of these beautiful days of holiday and the heat of a very mild summer month. After a difficult year marked by numerous strict confinements and a total ban on attending the classroom, nothing more was needed to make these children happy, and this is what Aude, a volunteer in Jordan offers you.
"It's 2 p.m.! It's hot ... terribly hot! We have just arrived in the schoolyard of Husn for this first day of summer camp. The children are lined up in a row in front of about fifteen young Jordanians; caps screwed on their heads and sunglasses on their noses! We are discreet, but how can we remain so for very long when our T-shirts with the SOS logo shout that we are not from here! The first words of the "Our Father" then resound... Palms towards the sky, the children spell out each syllable with strength and control! Then, all is quiet in this courtyard decorated with pretty paintings of Mickey, Minion and Hello Kitty.
Then, the minute the "Amin" sounded, the little angels turned into electric batteries! Then, the workshops can begin, and for me, it will be ... water fight! The children are divided by age and form different groups recognizable by a coloured bracelet to better organize the workshops.
My skirt is dripping, my T-shirt is soaked, and water is running into my eyes! I take a break to decide on my next target. I have a balloon full of water in my hand and seventy children around me. On my right, the organizer of this summer camp bursts a bomb on Lucas, a volunteer from SOS Chrétiens d'Orient. By a genuine sense of team spirit, I rush at him and throw my projectile, which spreads on his back like a raging wave.
I admire this man and his fifteen friends who give three days of their time to make these children dream. You will tell me that three days is short but three days with them is unforgettable. They are born entertainers. Singers, players or musicians use all their talents to make these young Christians smile between three and fifteen. Deprived of school because of the health crisis, they have not had the opportunity to have fun and share real quality moments for a long time! Here, there are no adults, only big children who have fallen back into childhood and shout at the top of their voices to scare the birds away from Husn, this small town in the north of Jordan.
"I love Jesus!" Behind me, a trainer has just raised his voice! This seemed to be an essential subterfuge for a quick return to calm after such an outburst of energy! All around him, the children shout, "I love Jesus!" like an echo echoing off the mountains in the wind. And then ... nothing ... silence! Wow! Mission accomplished.
Now it's time for the karaoke workshop to start! If, in the beginning, we have difficulty following, we quickly take the rhythm and end up on the stage gesticulating in all directions. Being all wet, I head for the inflatable pool where the clear water invites us to cool off!
Armed with a water pistol, I do not spare my efforts to abundantly spray any human being who seems a little too dry. In return, the children take revenge, and the activity degenerates into yet another water fight in the pool. Momentarily, I lay down my arms to help a little disabled girl enter the inflatable pool. Her mischievous laughter puts us in good spirits.
Other, slightly less crazy workshops have an equal effect on the children. An inflatable basket-shooting installation celebrates the most skilful among them. A giant musical chair shows competitive spirits. Ping pong tables, relays, choreography, no one can get bored. Once again, water bombs animate the workshops, which does not displease anyone because the sun is at its zenith. Astrid and Elisabeth cheer Lucas and his new best friend Michel, who have just gone down the inflatable slide. This image of a 24-year-old volunteer with this little boy 11 years younger, participating together, offers a touching contrast.
We are not immediately aware of the arrival of our distinguished guest. At the urging of the leaders, the games stop, and we join Bishop Joseph Jbara, Greek-Melkite Catholic, in the school car park. This man, wearing a cassock and a crosier, greets us in our respective languages, French and Italian.
It's getting late when we sit down for lunch. Minutes become seconds when you are in good company! Hamburgers, fries and cola are all we can eat. While eating and drying off, we listen to traditional Arabic or French music. In all the mission countries, it is a tradition for the host to play western sounds through the speakers as a sign of welcome! Everything is done so that everyone can enjoy it. I sit next to a group of young girls whose faces light up with a broad smile when they hear me say the few words in Arabic that I have tried to learn. But they quickly become hilarious when they hear me say the words they are trying to teach me. Even with the best will in the world, the lesson looks disastrous.
As soon as I finish my drink, I am whisked onto the dance floor. All these foot movements are admirable to watch but seem difficult to reproduce. However, I can see the dancers' enthusiasm as they try to teach me their rhythmic skills. Breathless, I catch my breath and scan my surroundings. Rabeea is on his way out! It's time to leave.
In the car, I think about this day, about how we were welcomed like kings. The trainer took us up on the stage to introduce us, thank us, and share their dance.
From the very first moment, I knew that today I would return to childhood. I was going to laugh, play, sing, dance in total carefreeness, with a feeling of deep inner peace and in an exhilarating joy. Today the language barrier has not been a hindrance! With my gestures, my eyes and my smile, I think I succeeded in making them understand that everything we experienced together made me happy.
So I would like to say thank you.
First of all, a big thank you to the donors of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient who finance these three days. Because as I write this text, I still have two more days like this to live, and I smile just thinking about it. Without SOS Chrétiens d'Orient, I would not have been able to splash the head of the summer camp, nor to see Rabeea, my head of mission, protect his bag at all costs from the water bombs flying from all sides. I would like to say thank you to the facilitators who, with their communicative madness and special attention for all the souls they meet, made me so happy. And thank you to the children for their mischievousness! I plan to take my revenge tomorrow, as soon as the activities start! Yallah, I'm coming!
Aude, a volunteer in Jordan.