After two days of travel we finally arrived in Zawiya Ahansal. We were greeted by a rather rambunctious five year old, the daughter of the Sheik. Within seconds she was introducing herself and asking us to play. I’ve never met a child with so much energy. After having most of our energy drained, a few of us set off into the village to explore. As we walked down the dirt path we were greeted by everyone, including the children. There were children scattered around everywhere outside. Some of the children looked as young as three and were outside playing without supervision. The community in Zawiya creates a safe environment for the children. The community of Zawiya is like one big happy family where everyone looks out for one another. It’s great that the children are able have so much freedom and are active and outside rather than sitting inside on a couch all day. Many parents in the Toronto area have become so worried for their children’s’ safety that the kids spend the majority of their time inside with little physical activity. Many of the kids in Zawiya Ahansal also walk 3km so their school starting at age 7. In Toronto you would very rarely find a child so young walking so much as down the street on their own.
Most nights the Sheik’s daughter, Sadia, would be outside the dinning room waiting to ambush us before we could slip away for a rest. Whether it was tag, piggy back rides, or any other made-up game, each one of us would tire long before she did. Sometime around 10:30pm many of us would start to fade and begin heading to bed, meanwhile Sadia was still awake and running around, begging us not to leave. By the time Sadia went to bed most nights it was around midnight and she was always awake when we emerge from our rooms at 7:30am. Every five year old that I know in Canada would be in bed well before 8:30pm and would be getting around 10 hours of sleep every night. After observing Sadia’s sleeping pattern for a few nights I asked Cloe (the program director) if this was normal for the children of Zawiya and she said that it was. It is often enforced in Canada that children need a lot of sleep for proper function and development, so it would be interesting to know if there is an impact on the children of Zawiya Ahansal with the lack of sleep they are getting or if the extra activity is beneficial.