Last January was a milestone in the history of the Sunrise Centre in Malta. Six years after the premises were bought and renovation started, the Centre’s inauguration and launch of the Sunrise English Club, its first activity took place.
Playing “spot the difference”
Whoever saw the house back in 1999 would not expect it could turn into a learning centre. The Sunrise Centre is located in one of the lowest income areas of Malta, with the highest rates of illiteracy, unemployment and other social ills, and it had been over 15 years since the house was last inhabited. Before that it had been a small slum, with a number of families occupying a room each. However, after the last resident left, the house became the local dump, with everybody literally dumping their unwanted things there. The 10 rooms, a three-room basement, a central courtyard with a well and a roof, were literally all full of rubbish, and it took lots of manpower and even more determination to carry the 30+ skip loads of junk down the 80 steps.A lot of work has been done since then due to the commitment of a nucleus of people and the support of many others, and the task of ‘transforming’ this house into a proper place for an Educational & Social Service Centre has been accomplished successfully.At the opening it touched me to see the previous owner of the house with tears in his eyes for seeing the ‘revolutionary’ transformations of the house that was once his and that from now on would serve the noble purpose of an educational centre. (As it turns out this man studies humanism and became extremely curious when he heard “Neohumanism” mentioned in the inauguration speech and as soon as he came home he searched the Internet for more information!)The whole process has been a very interesting experience for me and I am grateful that I have been part of it with the others. Forming the Centru Tbexbix Committee and each member taking responsibility for a different area (construction, fundraising, PR, etc) was a turning point and speeded up the process tremendously. The enthusiasm and unity built up more and more and it has been very inspiring to experience all this together, to witness all the small “miracles’ unfolding one after the other, and see the joy and satisfaction in the eyes of the Margiis.Recently some of the neighbours have been joining us bringing with them their enthusiasm and cooperativeness and more and more people have shown appreciation and interest to help or volunteer in the activities. Also Didi Rasamayii has joined the team recently and I feel she is the proper person to follow up on this project and together with the others bring it to its full development
My heartfelt appreciation goes to the committee members (Kamala, Jagadiish, Kalyani, Trpti, Shashvati, Amrta), Nirmalendu,, Didi Ananda Tapomaya, Didi Rasamayii and to all the people that in these years have contributed in one way or another to the materialization of this project; I am sorry that I cannot mention all their names. Amrta, who has been working in this project for more than two years, moved on to the Sweden Training Centre last new year to undergo Acarya Training.
The Sunrise Centre Opens its Doors By Didi Rasamayii
The months of intense preparation for the opening were followed by 5 days of closed doors. Not that we were sitting still, rather the opposite. We were busy getting chairs, desks and other donations from around the island so that our newly opened but still empty centre would soon be functional. When we got back the neighbours expressed their surprise. We had officially opened yet never had the doors remained closed for so long.
We explained that there was still a lot of work to be done, and although they understood, they persisted in their eager requests to start activities as soon as possible. So much enthusiasm we could not withstand. We changed our plans, started our Sunrise English Club a month earlier than scheduled, and entered into it as a kind of experiment. We put a simple poster on the door, prepared a lesson of ice-breakers and games and waited to see what would happen.On the planned day, while we were still preparing,
S for Snake
cleaning chairs, etc., Alfred came in, trousers and trainers full of dust, to check if we were open. 15 minutes later he returned with his twin brother and together with 3 girls our first class was formed. Introductions, name games, memory games and in the meantime speaking in English (it does help that I do not speak Maltese, they are really making efforts to speak to me in English, there is no alternative!) and some writing and reading too. From shyly answering our questions in the beginning the children transformed to playful competitors when they forgot about the learning aspect and just played. And they learned in the meantime. Seeing the joy in their eyes and laughter I got a deep sense of satisfaction and growing love, and a feeling that nothing could be more rewarding than for these kids to play, learn and grow to their full potential. Two days later, when I opened the door 15 minutes before class the girls were already waiting there and within minutes some new children joined too (as well as curious passers-by, neighbours and parents). This time we were 8, and again we did games. The throwing-the-beanbag-calling-out-names is by far the favourite and everyone learns each others’ name in no time at all!The children who came for the second time were already more confident and easily participated. One of the new boys seemed extremely shy at first, but easily joined in with the games and his face was shining as he played. Another boy was reluctant to answer to which school he is going. It turns out he is going to a special school for children with behavioural problems. He seemed ashamed and several times in the afternoon he was restless and distracted. However, what a change in his attitude when he was able to teach me some Maltese words after class! I said the words I knew, and he would say the English. Then he started to tell me new words, and he wouldn’t stop! Anything he could think of: window, door, eyes, nose, blood, Tuesday, etc etc. He told me he will teach me more words next time and with a big smile and a cheerful “Ciao Didi!” he went home.
It made me realise the gain lies in raising their self-confidence, and ability to learn. That will help them in many more ways for the rest of their lives. Again, what could be more worthwhile?In the meantime the group has grown to 20 children, and still more are asking to come. We smilingly accept them, knowing that we will need more resources very soon. But the faith in that all that is needed will be provided is strengthened as new volunteers come forward, donations in kind and money are received and positive feedback comes from parents and local social workers. On top of that, more requests are coming from the people who walk in as soon as our doors are open: activities and courses for adults, for smaller children, in English, computers and other subjects. With such sympathetic response from the neighbourhood and the enthusiasm of our volunteers the Sunrise Centre cannot be anything but a success!Since the writing of this article more people have come forward to join the Sunrise English Club team, now consisting of 12 volunteers! Complementing the game-based group activities, sessions in small groups of 2-3 children per teacher have started in order to give attention to their individual needs, as well as group activities for the younger 5-8 year olds. Another activity of the Sunrise Centre is about to take off as professional therapists have come together and formed a team that will offer free psychological support to women and youth of the local area. And finally, some really good news on the funding side: the Centre has received a grant from US Embassy for the purchase of its first computers!