Many of the children are haunted by the things they saw during their last days in Syria.
“There were dead people on the streets and heavy gunfire,” says 12-year-old Omaima, whose family fled the city of Homs nine months ago. “There was shooting. Homes were destroyed, buildings collapsed. The injured were lying on the ground. It was so terrible, living through that.”
For many of the children, their flight to Jordan was almost as traumatic as the situation in Syria.
“The day we left Homs, there was shelling,” recalls 16-year old Nermine. “We were getting ready to leave everything – our family, our relatives. We weren’t sure whether anything would still be there when we came back. And we were about to go to a new world that we didn’t know anything about.”
Nine months later and Nermine, Omaima and their families are slowly adjusting to their new surroundings in the desert town of Ma’an in Jordan—thanks in part to the UNICEF-sponsored activities organized by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), a national NGO and UNICEF partner.
“Here we’re all of the same age and we try to relieve the tension and channel our energy into something positive and useful by engaging in arts and crafts and learning how to cook,” says Nermine. “All this helps us.”
Syrian refugee children also have the opportunity to return to school.
“The children have seen things they shouldn’t have seen at their age,” says Nooran Sherari, who teaches art at the JOHUD centre. “They saw violence, they saw blood, the saw the injured, the dead. They saw themselves being displaced and their families humiliated.”
But Ms. Sherari believes the activities are helping the children come to terms with the horrors they experienced.
“After a while, they started enjoying the activities more. I noticed because at 8 o’clock sharp, they would all be waiting at the gate, ready to start the class.”
Pausing from her needlework, Omaima agrees.
“Going to school and coming to this centre has helped us a lot. But it’s hard to forget what’s happening in Homs. Everywhere I go, Syria is in my mind.”
Adapted from text by Simon Ingram.
In the News
[The Toronto Star] Syria’s refugee children cope with trauma of war