AYF Internship: Learning Teamwork at COAF
By U. Arev Dinkjian
In the United States, “works well with others” is a description you wear with pride. It’s a skill that not everyone has. It’s rare, even. But in the village of Lenagog, I found something special. Everyone works well with others—it’s how they were raised.
I very clearly remember the absolute distress I felt as an elementary school student when the teacher would utter those horrible words: group project. There was nothing that I liked about working with other people. I wanted to complete my own work, and I wanted to receive a grade on that very work. In the States, we’re brought up to see our intellectual peers as competition—not as teammates.
But in Lenagog, it’s quite different. The students do everything together and support each other in everything they do. Walking down the halls of the school, the students wind their fingers together as a pair. In their gym class, they play a relay race that requires them to run to the opposite side of the room while linked at the arms. They share books and candies and secrets.
My favorite display of team work occurred on my first day at a COAF camp in Lenagog. From what was translated to me in broken English and hand gestures, one of the students had difficulty walking and speaking. They didn’t know the name for his condition.
It was his turn to answer a question posed by the teacher. I didn’t know how he’d stand on his own, but then the two students next to him reached under his arms. Slowly, carefully, and with so much love, the two students lifted him from his seat and held him up as his legs extended. The rest of the class fell completely silent and leaned forward in their chairs to hear him better. When he finished speaking, the class erupted in applause. They were so proud of their peer, and I was so proud to have witnessed it all.
The two students lowered the boy back into his chair and the class proceeded as usual—all of them working well together.