Bringing Refugee Voices into the Classroom

As the level of forced migration has reached its highest since World War II, immigration is poised to become one of the defining issues of our time. Yet, there has been very little space for the forcibly displaced to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences with the rest of the world. NaTakallam thus takes pride in providing the opportunity for communities and educational institutions of all sizes and faiths to engage in fruitful and impactful conversations with displaced persons.

NaTakallam (“We Speak” in Arabic) is a social venture founded in 2015 that creates employment opportunities for displaced persons primarily from Syria and Iraq and brings refugee voices, cultural exchange, and language learning opportunities to people all over the world. This past year, NaTakallam has reached its largest audience of students yet with our programs Marhaba Madrasa and Marhaba University (Hello School and Hello University in Arabic) in which displaced persons videoconference into classrooms as guest speakers to talk with students about their experiences as well as critical topics such as identity, xenophobia, assimilation, and integration. The format of the program also allows students to ask questions about Syria and Iraq and the impact that displacement has had on their lives.

Displaced persons videoconference into classrooms as guest speakers to talk with students about their experiences as well as critical topics such as identity, xenophobia, assimilation, and integration.

Since launching the programs, NaTakallam has partnered with over 65 schools and 25 universities in 13 countries, reaching over 2000 students, with an overwhelmingly positive response. One professor at New York University who hosted a Marhaba University session said, “They [the two guest speakers] explained what it was like to find an organization like Natakallam that would support them in a professional capacity in their exile from Syria. They shared stories about the relationships they have built with their students, and described some of the challenges they face in their new contexts. It was such a wonderful opportunity for our students to connect with real people as a way of dispelling stereotypes and adding a personal, multi-dimensional view of daily life as a refugee.”

Another teacher from a high school in Seattle, WA wrote, “It was truly amazing and inspiring. Not only was Hadiya [their guest speaker] the best partner I could ever imagine, my students were pushed to take some responsibility for moving the conversation forward, asking questions of Hadiya and encouraging each other to join the conversation…Hadiya’s humanity, her willingness to tell us the details of her personal story, her strength and positivity in the face of staggering life challenges, were all so inspiring to me and to my students.”

In continuing to spread our message of peace and inclusion, NaTakallam will begin offering sessions to community groups and places of worship, beginning this fall. If you are interested in bringing these guest speaking sessions to your school, university, or community group; please email universities@natakallam.com or schools@natakallam.com.

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