BY: NELE KORHONEN
Why would a team of engineering, architecture and design students – but no humanists – conduct a humanitarian project? Can they? We had our reasons (which we can only speak for ourselves), and it took a lot of work but with humbleness, curiosity and great partnership we were able to navigate in the humanitarian field in Greece, following the most important rule of doing no harm. While we were learning, there was a lot we were able to give.
Being honest and realistic about our limitations didn’t stop us but lead to certain decisions. Instead of starting something completely new to meet our objective – empowering displaced youth – we used an existing peer-teaching methodology that is based on pedagogical theories and has been successfully tested in various environments. This ensured some quality in our project and brought confidence that the method will fit our aim. Furthermore, taking the method to a context in which it had not been used before and applying our learnings to developing the method was a way to contribute to something bigger than LIFT.
Planning and conducting peer-teaching workshops, and creating a guidebook for that, were our main actions but the true value and character of the project came from authentic interaction. In the workshops we were all peers, and with this in mind we were all qualified for the project.
In one of the classes I was trying to teach the method to teenage boys that had trouble focusing. They wanted to talk about love, so we did. In that moment, listening to them was far more important than the method. Giving the boys some space and seeing them as they are, actually lead to learning results. During our discussions they were able to teach some of their unique drawing techniques (drawing hearts of course!) and we even had a chance to discuss how the method can be useful for them later in life. This helped them see the value of their own skills and of peer-teaching.
After our field trip I stayed some time in Greece meeting more people. Maybe it was the place and its history that reflected from the locals as a lot of the discussions I had with them were deep and philosophical. Like the boys in the class, they talked a lot about love, in a most natural manner. I told the story of our project to some new friends, and one said that we had given the teenagers love which is the most valuable thing we could give. Indeed, peer-teaching is an act of love.