Week Without Walls Diaries: Happy Caravan

Happy Caravan – A Week that Broke Walls

By Jasmine, Grade 10

In 2017, ISP entered an official partnership with Happy Caravan, a non-profit organization bringing a safe and empowering educational space to children in refugee camps in Greece. Currently, they’re running two school programs, one at the Thermopylae Refugee Center in Lamia and the second in Malakasa Refugee Camp. For many within the ISP community, involvement with Happy Caravan has been truly transformative.

“We aim to provide a safe space to educate, inspire and empower children fleeing war and crisis. We provide structure in a state of uncertainty and encourage positive behaviour through leading by positive example”.

Happy Caravan

For the first time since 2020, the anticipated Week Without Walls trips came back, reinstating the beloved Happy Caravan trip. Ten ISP Upper school students traveled to Greece to spend a week in the Thermopylae refugee camp in collaboration with the ongoing school program.  There they created and taught lessons to children and worked with experienced volunteers.

The team created this video to sum up their experience, including student interviews and plenty of photos.

In past years, students who traveled to Greece for their Week Without Walls made videos documenting their own trips — check out this video from the 2018 group.

Alaeddin Janid, the founder of Happy Caravan, gave a beautiful TEDx talk a couple of years ago called “The butterfly effect: helping refugee children create a future”. Take a look to learn more about his work.

“It puts everything into perspective. We always see everything online and in the news, but coming here really shows you that it’s not all so far away.”

Rana Fotouhinia, Grade 11

The group of ten split up into pairs to collaborate and create lesson plans for the week. Each group had a chance to consult with experienced volunteers at Happy Caravan. Repeatedly they were told that these plans were nothing more than that – plans! Each class was unpredictable and chaotic, which made it all the more fun.

“You come here and you wouldn’t even know what these kids have been through. They’re all so happy, so excited all the time, all they want to do is play.”

Rana Fotouhinia, Grade 11

On Thursday of that week, the entire Happy Caravan group, including students, teachers, parents, and children alike, all took a bus to a nearby natural park. A the park, they spent the day playing, dancing, and giving piggy back rides.

After returning to ISP the following week, many students said they felt completely different about nearly every aspect of their life after their time with Happy Caravan. The time they spent there together had completely changed their perspective and their approach to school. All in all, it was a week that truly broke down walls.

“At the end of the day, you feel really good, knowing what you did matters.”

Anna Janečková