Replanting the Seeds at Al-Bustan


Me dressed in a black skirt, age 7 at Al-Bustan Camp 2007

I’m currently working as an intern with Al-Bustan. My longstanding participation with Al-Bustan says something about the organization, in that its reach extends past those ancestrally connected with Arab culture. 

Though I am fascinated by the Arabic language and culture, my mother’s family is Colombian-American, and my father’s family is Angolan. It is the integration of Arab culture throughout the Islamic world, specifically in the Andalusian region, that originally led my mother to send me to Al-Bustan Camp, and it is my own ethnic diversity that has allowed me to be more open to other cultures. 

Growing up surrounded by the languages that tie into my heritage (Spanish and Portuguese, of which I speak Spanish fluently) has further interested me in the languages that go along with the identities of others: while I attended Independence Charter School, I was fortunate enough to study Arabic during my last 3 years. Currently a sophomore at Science Leadership Academy, I take my school life, both in and out of the classroom, very seriously. I’m on the debate team as well as the board of the robotics team. While Arabic is a hobby of mine, I bring the same dedication to studying the language and culture that I do to my schoolwork.


Me playing the role of the “Sea Goddess,” age 10 at Al-Bustan 2010

It’s fortuitous that the first song I learned as an Al-Bustan Camper, Lamma Bada Yatathanna, was one representing the multicultural region of Andalusia, Spain. As a seven year old, I could not grasp the importance of the lessons of acceptance taught to me through Al-Bustan’s diverse and welcoming environment, but returning to Al-Bustan each year has offered me a way to reconnect with those lessons as well as my passions: Arabic and Music. Though I have pursued out-of-school opportunities (I take singing lessons at UPenn and Arabic lessons with a family friend, Tarek Albasti), limited funding within the Philadelphia School District has made in-school access nearly impossible. Working with Al-Bustan seemed like the perfect option for me as I am in the midst of thinking about what I want to do in the future. The organization has done such a phenomenal job of incorporating the arts, especially Middle Eastern art, into the education of the Arabic language. 

My general goal for this internship is to improve my understanding of the Arabic language and culture by interacting with prominent figures working with Arab art and culture here in Philadelphia. Most importantly, I want to decide for myself whether or not working in an Arabic-related field and with organizations that promote Arab culture is something that I would like to pursue in the future. If so, I know that the seeds that I plant through this internship with Al-Bustan will prove a strong foundation. Insha’ allah I will use that foundation to better my understanding of the Arab world while learning from and teaching others along the way.

Fairuz’s version of Lamma Bada Yatathanna
Kia DaSilvia, Intern
Class of 2017, Science Leadership Academy






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