As we made our way to ULYP’s campus in Dibbiyeh for my first day volunteering with HAPPY, I realized that I had no idea what to expect or whether the few words of Arabic I had mastered would actually get me through my first day of preschool. By the time we arrived on campus, I was beset with questions like: What if no one likes me? What if I do something embarrassing? What if I forget the Arabic words I learned?
With my anxiety rising, I nervously entered the classroom only to see 25 children’s faces all laden with the very same expression as mine. As each of us looked around the room, recognizing ourselves in one another, we became united and I started to notice courage replacing the looks of doubt. I sensed the eager excitement in the room growing as the nervousness slowly disappeared, and before I knew it, as we all joined hands to sing the hokey-pokey. Any worries I had before were replaced by feelings of opportunity and hope.
Now, I wake up every morning confident that it will be another HAPPY day, motivated by the smiles on the children’s faces as they have fun learning and exploring. I am halfway through my time volunteering on ULYP’s HAPPY Program, yet I already find myself struggling to imagine returning to my ‘pre-HAPPY’ life in the UK.