The sixteen Tinkering local facilitators in Saudi Arabia have their scheduled hours of work, but some of them are voluntarily coming in earlier than their shift or staying late to work on several things.
One of the daily household-type things we do is to repair some broken materials for the Circuit Boards and Scribbling Machines. Since the solder connections on those materials we brought to Saudi Arabia easily break, we have been re-soldering many of them every day.
One day, when I was soldering wires to motors in the storage area, I noticed Jehan was curiously watching me doing soldering. So I showed her how to do it. She quickly learned how to use the soldering iron to melt solder and how to join the wires.
On the first day of learning soldering, Jehan repaired 5 or 6 motors and proudly putting them back to our workshop material bins so that kids can use them again. I particularly remember what she said to me:
“I am very happy today! I made something useful! I did something, like usually guys do!”
Working for the Tinkering Studio for a couple of years, I myself got used to seeing girls doing soldering or using power tools, but this Jehan’s words sounded fresh in my ears and made me recall myself: a few years ago I was also like Jehan, assuming soldering is a guy’s thing! But for me, learning how to solder opened up many doors for creations, not only doing electrical work but also creating wire sculptures and wire automata. And I am sure she will also start seeing more potentials of what she could do with her soldering skills.
Next day, Jehan started coming one hour earlier and take initiatives to repair everything in the repair box. I was really happy to see Jehan, who just discovered the joys of working with hands and using new tools to repair materials for our workshop. Not only that, she started encouraging other people to do the same, by showing them how to solder – her newly learned skill.
So needles to say, on the next day, I found Khaldoun sitting at the soldering table taking over soldering work from Jehan. Then again the next day, I noticed that Mohammed was also curious about soldering so I showed him how to do that.
And again the next day, (of course!), I found that Raheeq was sitting at the soldering table and heard from Mohammed that he taught Raheeq how to do it. I was really amazed by how quickly they pass along the newly learned knowledge to others! And they all say "We love it!"
In the beginning of the festival, I was feeling nervous about things tended to break so easily, but now since many of us are so enthusiastic about soldering and sharing new skills with others, I actually ended up “appreciating” this circuit boards breaking problems.
I clearly see that getting new skills and fixing workshop materials (or making modifications to the wind tubes too!) is empowering the facilitators, giving them the sense of ownership that this Studio is their own space that they take care of. To me, working for the Tinkering Studio as a facilitator is not only about learning facilitations, but also learning new skills (soldering, wood working, arduino, etc.. ), designing activities, and being able to run the space with a logistics point of view such as scheduling, managing materials and environments. Repairing the broken stuff is, of course, one of the important jobs to run the activities.
I still remember, a few years ago, when I first had a chance to make and repair some parts for Marble Machines, the feeling of mental distance that I had with the Marble Machines (although I already really loved the activity) got disappeared immediately and started receiving whatever happened in the activity as “my own things”.
I am feeling the same things will happen to the Saudi facilitators!