EDGE's pop-ups started in May 2016 when we drove by an abandoned building to see tangles of children playing in the concrete shade of an Iraqi summer. We arranged for a friend to translate for us and headed back to find out the story of these families. They, like so many others, had been driven from their homes when ISIS converged on their villages. They had settled into this building project that was on hold because of the economic collapse and had been living out their routines here. Three of the more than thirty kids living in this structure were attending school, we learned. We decided that wasn't acceptable, so once a week, we packed up our white boards, our chairs, our paper and pencils, and we trekked over to the unfinished building, kids converging on us as we approached helping to carry the supplies. We set up our makeshift classroom at the base of a dam, on the side of the mountain, or just off the busy street and conducted English, Kurdish, Hygiene, Art, and Character lessons.
We are more than convinced that this is less than ideal, but we also know that this model allows us to reach hundreds more kids than our Haven Center can serve. Our Pop-Up programs acknowledge the basic human dignity in all displaced people and refugees and acknowledging the fact that the International Standard for Human Rights that calls for the right to free and quality education for all must not be denied to these, even these undocumented, unnoticed ones.
Before long, our friends were asked to leave the building, and they scattered in various directions. We picked up our Pop-Up materials, and moved to another unfinished structure closer to our center. More than 60 kids came regularly from surrounding tents and lean-tos to practice their English, listen to stories, create art, and engage with our loving staff. Once school started, we moved once again to a village that has no educational opportunities for it's more than 200 kids. Some of the children are able to attend school in the camp in town, but that is a 3-5 mile trek, and most cannot manage it. For now, when our staff Pops Up in Rikava, the minute they pull into the village and start making their way to the barren hillside where they settle into some concrete pavilions, more than 100 kids convene and eagerly wait for the lessons to start.
Our motto for Pop-Up school is this: love who you can, where you are. We may not be able to get kids into the best Universities in the most difficult of degrees, but we are reminding them that they are loved, they are worth it, and they can do anything they set their minds to. Sometimes, that's all they need.