A Student Perspective on ISP’s Partnership with Happy Caravan

It’s hard to explain but the whole atmosphere in the camp kind of drowns out all other thoughts”. – Reflections on ISP’s Partnership with Happy Caravan with Nicole (Grade 11) of the Upper School Happy Caravan Club

How and why did you get involved in Happy Caravan? 
I wanted to get involved when I was in 9th Grade, I was speaking to some of the students who had returned from Happy Caravan the first time and hearing their stories piqued my interest. At the beginning of the school year 2019-20 I put down Happy Caravan as my first choice for Week Without Walls (an introductory week in September when Upper School students spent important learning time in new environments while building relationships with their fellow Upper School students). I was lucky enough to travel to Greece in September 2019.

Nicole leads an IT class at Happy Caravan

How did you feel prior to travelling to Greece and then when you arrived?

Meeting and being with the kids, it is hard to describe. I knew to some extent what I was getting into as we had training sessions on how to deal with children who have suffered trauma, what to do when they cry, how close to get (as it can be traumatic for them when you leave) and so on, so I had a little bit of trepidation about how I would fare teaching the children. 

When I got there, however, all my fears evaporated. It’s hard to explain but the whole atmosphere in the camp kind of drowns out all other thoughts. 

ISP people in Greece, September 2019

What was your role in teaching at Happy Caravan and do you have any special memories of teaching? 

I taught kids ranging from 6-7 to teenagers and even mums, the latter who I taught conversational English. It might sound dramatic but I almost felt like a different person in this environment – I was right out of my comfort zone and like I was seeing a different version of life. I remember one of the mums was having a lesson and I helped look after her little three year old girl. 

We sat at the back of the class drawing and taught each other to write our names in Arabic and English. It may have been just a little thing but it was a special moment for me. I couldn’t help but think of the trauma that this little girl must have gone through in her young life. The kids there were always smiling, always so excited to be there. It really showed the privilege of learning, and very much put any complaints my friends and I have about our life at ISP into clear perspective.

Nicole in hug mode!

Has your Happy Caravan experience affected your future plans in any way? 

I do want to continue to volunteer work throughout my entire life. I realised that even a small change I can make to someone’s life was really meaningful to me. I think I will continue volunteering throughout my entire life, no matter what I do or where I go. 

Do you have any funny memories of your time in Greece? 

The kids really like to get hugs and have boundless energy. One little girl asked for a hug then if I could pick her up and spin her round. Before I knew it, there was a line of ten or eleven kids waiting for their turn! I remember having great fun but being exhausted at the end of it! I realised I didn’t quite have the energy levels of the kids. 

A Happy Caravan student with ISP artwork in Greece

About the future – do you think you will stay involved in Happy Caravan? 

I will stay involved with Happy Caravan Club for the remainder of my time at ISP and hopefully like (ISP Alumni) Vivi and Lily I will stay involved in working with Happy Caravan after I graduate. I hope to study Marketing in England after my graduation and perhaps some of the skills I gain in this field might be used to help explain the work of Happy Caravan in the future.