Diary Entry One:
We were based at the Al Za'atari Syrian Refugee Camp in northern Jordan. It is the second largest camp in the world.
30% of the camp's Syrian residents of over 80,000 are children of school age. Half of them do not attend any of the nine schools in the camp because they work in nearby farms or elsewhere. Families need incomes. So as refugee adults are not legally allowed to work, parents often had to get their sons and daughters to take up work wherever they can. Child labour is a reality.
NGOs onsite and Jordanians are encouraging additional foreign aid to be used to create jobs that do not take work away from Jordanians and thus in the process allow all children in the camp to stay in full-time education.
We as volunteers are part of this initiative to upskill young people so that they might have a positive future.
But all the Jordanians and Syrians that I am working with are true angels doing their very best for people in a country that is one of the poorest in the Middle East.
Next month, I will be back in Africa once again under the Africa Code Week programme, another great SAP initiative spearheaded by the visionary Claire Gillissen.
Photograph shows students at my all-day coding workshop this afternoon in the Al Za'atari Syrian Refugee Camp.
These wonderful young men and women come mainly from the Daraa district of Syria.
If they had stayed in their homeland many of the people smiling at you would not now be alive.
They fled with their families to escape war, persecution and death; their educational studies, careers and dreams shattered in the process.
Thanks to the generousity of the Jordanian people as well as dedicated volunteers and funds from the United Nations, the EU and NGOs/governments from Norway, Japan, Kuwait, Britain, USA and many other countries, they hopefully will be able to believe in themselves once again, to have children, jobs and to lead long, peaceful and happy lives in Syria or in some other place.
Man's inhumanity to man (& it is very rarely women) always saddens me; killing a human being purely because of his/her race, religious belief, ethnicity or social class is pure evil. Sadly this barbarism is on the rise again in the 21st century.
After my classes finished today, I went to the camp perimeter to look over at Syria in the distance (only 10kms away) and I counted my blessings that I have been given an opportunity by SAP/GEC to play a small part in helping these people, who did not ask or want to be refugees torn from the country that they love, to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
This hope was reinforced by the fact that my co-mentor today was my good friend Aphrodice Foyo Mutangana.
Aphrodice is from Rwanda where I worked a few months ago as part of Africa Code Week. Whilst there I witnessed at first hand a country that had arose in a few short years from the ashes of an apocalypse to become, at many levels, a beacon of sunshine for a whole continent.
In 1994, over 800,000 people were butchered to death in the Rwandan genocide, a crime of unparelled butchery carried out by neighbour against neighbour, citizen against citizen. But today it has adopted a policy of reconciling genocide victim and perpetrator; has implemented a programme of 'community togetherness' that is possibly the best in the world; promotes women's rights, technology empowerment, sustainable economic development and reforestation as well as re-introducing once extinct wildlife to its countryside.
If this central African nation can rebuild after such a devastating human tsunami, the Middle East can become a peaceful region of cultural and religious diversity and tolerance.
My work as part of a team of enthusiastic visionary tech-savvy men and women has still much to give to the inhabitants of Africa, Middle East and Ireland.
Our volunteer group spent the first few days in the Zaatari refugee camp providing computer coding workshops to teachers and students all of whom were forced by war to give up promising careers and jobs in Syria to flee to the safety of Jordan.
But it was the following day that was for me a true epiphany. For we could then truly enjoy the fruits of our labour as we watched the young men and women, that we had mentored, enthusiastically take on the task of teaching coding to the children of the camp on a one-to-one or one-to-two basis..
From early morning until early evening on that day 'our students' transformed what we had taught them into a subject that excited the interest and imagination of the children in their care.
Survivors of an ongoing brutal conflict that is destroying their homeland and their people, they have shown how, even in the darkest hour, the light of humanity can still shine through and that everyday life has to continue