Seniors Author Workbook for Refugee Children

by St. Andrew's Communications Staff
Inspired by their experience volunteering with refugees and immigrants, seniors Zara Blake ’21 and Janine Junaideen ‘21 wrote a workbook designed to help children develop strategies for navigating difficult social situations.
Inspired by their experience volunteering with refugees and immigrants, seniors Zara Blake ’21 and Janine Junaideen ‘21 wrote a workbook designed to help children develop strategies for navigating difficult social situations.
 
“The main reason we wanted to make this book, and not focus on something to help students academically, was because we realized that (inclusion) is the hidden problem these refugee students face,” Zara said.
 
Their book, titled “What to Do When... 26 Child Friendly Strategies to Manage Emotions and Difficult Social Situations,” is the product of their 2019-2020 academic-year fellowship with the non-profit leadership development organization, LearnServe International. The goal of the fellowship was for participants to develop and implement a project that would benefit a local community.
 
Over the past couple years, Zara and Janine have tutored children who are clients of Solutions in Hometown Connections, a Hyattsville-based non-profit organization that provides durable programs and solutions to refugee and immigrant families transitioning to life in the United States. St. Andrew’s Upper School students complete 20 hours of service learning in their freshman, sophomore, and junior years.

They originally wanted to create a virtual tutoring program to help students with English and other subjects, but after speaking with SHC clients, they discovered how they could make a greater impact.
 
“After talking to the students and asking them, ‘What do you need the most help with in school?’ we realized the underlying issue of them not wanting to go to school is the issue of inclusivity and feeling like they don’t belong and don’t understand the teacher,” Janine said.
 
“We don’t want to make students feel like they have to fully acclimate to the American system of education, but we want them to know how to deal with social issues that arise and feel like they are included in their communities,” she added.
 
After months of planning the virtual tutoring program, Janine and Zara pivoted in March and began researching and writing the book. They interviewed students, identified scenarios to highlight in the book, and consulted a licensed psychologist to review the content.
 
The book, which is designed for children of all backgrounds in elementary and middle school, begins with a series of exercises to help readers become aware of their emotions, including a mindfulness coloring page, a growth mindset chart, and a “what to look for in a friend” word search. The exercises are followed by 16 scenarios that could happen at school or at home and guidance for how to handle them. Examples include what to do when you don’t understand what your teacher is telling you to do, or what to do when you see a friend being bullied or mistreated.
 
“What to Do When...” is now available to purchase on Kindle, and Zara and Janine are working to get the book printed. Their goal is to distribute 1,500 to 2,000 copies of the book to public schools and nonprofit organizations.
 
They said the experience of pivoting their LearnServe project and creating “What to Do When” helped them learn more about themselves, their persistence, and how they can serve their communities.
 
“Janine and I have gotten close through this project, and because it was a collaborative venture that we did together, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the way I interact with other people,” Zara said. “We had a lot of obstacles we had to overcome. We had to reach out to a whole lot of people, and more than half the time when we reached out to people, we never got a response, or we didn’t get what we wanted.”
 
“We learned a lot about different ways to give back to the community,” Janine said. “It doesn’t always have to be something as big as a book.”
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St. Andrew’s Episcopal School is a private, coeducational college preparatory day school for students in preschool (Age 2) through grade 12, located in Potomac, Maryland.