Written by Ziwen Wang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
Founded by the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation in 2015, El Menahil International School serves Syrian families displaced by violence and conflict by providing education and support for children, adults, and their families.
Designed to boost awareness and build upon the concepts of great love without limits, the Tzu Chi Character Education team established an “Anti-bullying in Schools” program to help students and teachers spot the signs of bullying among peers. Also taught in the U.S., this program was carried out via a 30-minute group class, and took place from February 28 to March 4, 2022.
Uplifting Families Through the Menahil Promise
Over one decade ago, civil war broke out in Syria, and has since driven 5.6 million people from their homeland, each fleeing danger, despair, and even certain death.
Syrians have shown remarkable resilience, but the crisis continues to leave generations of innocent people and families with the harrowing scars of war and an uncertain future. Neighboring Turkey has welcomed approximately 3.7 million refugees. Still, impacted families and individuals must climb perhaps the most challenging peak of all, and build a life from scratch.
Amid these challenges, young, school-age children often must abandon education to help the household make ends meet. Accordingly, Tzu Chi strives to fulfill the promise of education that each student at El Menahil deserves by offering monthly stipends to many students.
Nearly all of the teachers at El Menahil are also refugees who previously worked as professors, teachers, and other professionals back in Syria. Having all felt the consequences of the Syrian Civil War, teachers and staff members share a special bond with their students, providing a unique community support system, and a place for healing. On-site psychologists and social workers familiar with refugee trauma are also available on every floor to help support students and fellow staff members’ emotional needs. Even so, their hearts still ache. Some children may be hesitant to open up, or are upset with the world that hurt them.
Learning How to Spot Bullying & Stand Up to It Safely
The anti-bullying course began with a “tug-of-war” activity, through which students recognized the power of mutual goodness can be strengthened when more people work together. In the same way, if more people in the world bear thoughts of kindness while doing good deeds regularly, there will be more warmth in our society.
In the classroom, students also made a promise to love their classmates, and when meeting people who are different from them, they will extend their hand in friendship — treating their peers as they would their own family. Their teacher then led a role-playing exercise that showed students how to identify different forms of bullying, such as verbal bullying and social exclusion.
“In the course, students take an oath not to bully their classmates and to communicate with teachers when bullying occurs,” said Ziwen Wang, from the Character Education Development and Promotion Office.
“There have been cases that Syrian students were bullied in other schools, so in addition to the students in El Menahil, I also want to be able to help Syrian refugee students in other international schools,” one Syrian Character Education teacher expressed. With this, the Director of the Character Education Development and Promotion Office, Yuanjun Luo, suggested that students from other schools could be invited to participate in this class as well, and El Menahil teachers could teach the program in other schools, inviting Tzu Chi volunteers to participate.