I have started my journey with the ALCASA children’s group in June 2014 in the city library’s event room. Some children who attended the library sessions did not speak a word of Arabic, others were able to speak and write. Sometimes we had to say one word in 3 dialects (Iraqi, Lebanese/Palestinian, and Yemeni) and then explain it in English. Some kids loved every activity, others had hard time to participate due to being shy or simply had no interest at that particular point of time.

Our program has evolved and we always tried to keep the kids motivated. We played games, read stories, wrote a play and acted it, brought toys to illustrate animals, fruits, etc. Playdough was always on the table ready to be cut into beautiful Arabic words. We were lucky to host a belly dance workshop by Nayima Hassan. We even had a public performance at Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre on 7 December 2014 where we performed a play and put together a dance show led by Nicole, a co-founder of ALCASA.

We have learned a lot, the kids have developed a huge interest, their language has been growing rapidly, their shyness has slowly disappeared and they’ve built beautiful friendships.
As for us (the adults), we have tried to keep being creative and strengthen our program, we managed to make a framework that we could built on by choosing a theme. The elements were easy: choose words around the theme, teach the kids the letters of the words, read a book about it, art, play, and cook.

Finding words was easy indeed, however finding books and having time to cook was a challenge. One theme we had was on a Spider, we used a book written by one of the kids. We sang “Itsy Bitsy spider” in Arabic, we made spiders from cleaning pipes. We cooked “mana’ish za’ter” and we played forming a spider web.

Then it was time to show our skills, we had an amazing time participating in the 2015 Multicultural Festival, and Laziza Festival. We made drums, we had Henna Arts, the kids wrote their names in Arabic without help and wore it as a necklace, we dressed up in traditional clothes, and had fun playing games that no one in the crowd could possibly know, we were proud to show them and get them to play with us. Nayima Hassan was there once again supporting us and charmed everyone having the kids dancing around her.

On 6 December, we had our graduation party for 2015, the kids got each a trophy and an award for their amazing effort in expanding their Arabic. We will meet again in the new year, on a different location and many fresh ideas.

ALCASA Children’s program offers children an amazing opportunity not only to learn Arabic, but to think creatively, enjoy culture and make friendships. Its unique approach “play to learn” has distinguished it clearly, but ALCASA is more than that, our program welcomes children from different nationalities, religions and backgrounds, it is for those who simply like to enjoy Arabic and understand the importance of learning it.

Here are some memories to share with you. Happy holidays everyone and looking forward to see you again in the next year.

Nadia Sbahi