BY LIZ CROSS
Dany, his wife and their three daughters live in an unfinished building in a Syrian city that has been plagued by bombs and shelling since the start of the war. Their neighbourhood has sustained heavy bombardment, which has led to many tragic deaths and serious injuries among their friends and neighbours.
Unsurprisingly, this has had a profound psychological impact on the girls, particularly his youngest daughter, Sally. They have been gripped by fear and have a phobia of loud sounds and sudden events. Their parents say they suffer from anxiety and stress due to the insecurity of their environment.
The family also face financial challenges in providing for their basic needs due to the collapsed economy in Syria, resulting in low salaries compared to a relatively high cost of living.
Thankfully, nearby there is a Child Friendly Space that provides a safe and supportive place for the girls to go to. Every day the girls eagerly wait for the bus to take them there, where they excitedly join in the activities and lessons. The girls enjoy the atmosphere of care and concern for their feelings and fears.
Their time at the Child Friendly Space has helped them immensely and been a source of much joy.
“Sally was a tired little girl and her complaints led her sisters to also complain about her,” shares Dany. “But today – after nearly a year of this beautiful programme – Sally has changed; becoming cheerful and kind.”
This story is from one of the four Child Friendly Spaces Viva supports in Syria and Lebanon, through our partners LSESD, by providing staff training and child protection support.
Staff from this Child Friendly Space recently travelled to Beirut to receive three days of training from Viva’s Children in Emergencies Specialist, Kezia M’Clelland. They were joined by five others from education projects in Lebanon and a children’s worker from a church partner in Iraq.
The sessions aimed to equip local leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to be able to train and support other churches and organisations in their locations to put in place systems to keep children safe.
The participants learnt key facts and information about understanding and responding to child abuse, particularly in emergency contexts, and also looked at the practical skills needed to plan and facilitate a training session on child protection.
The knowledge learnt over these three days is now being put to further use; the participants are using it to train others in their communities in child protection.
Ensuring Child Friendly Spaces are safe places for children is vital in helping them to process the difficult things they have experienced. Through simply being in a safe and stable environment, and receiving love and care from staff, children can often process their experiences without the need for trauma counselling.
This certainly has been the case in this Child Friendly Space in Syria. You can see it not only in Sally’s story or the children’s drawings displayed here but also in numbers.
In 2016, almost half (46%) of 81 children surveyed were experiencing high or very high levels of psychological difficulties. One year on, 84 children were surveyed and the percentage reduced dramatically to only eight per cent.
We thank God for the impact this Child Friendly Space is having on children but recognise this is just the beginning of supporting families, and giving them renewed hope.
As Dany, Sally’s father, says, “Our hope for the future is the return of peace and security to our country. We want our children to grow in a healthy environment so that their personalities might be formed in a natural and healthy way, and that they might be able to acquire knowledge easily.”
“I hope this programme will continue to remain a haven for a healthy childhood despite a bitter reality, and will give our children the joy they deserve and the care we cannot often give to them as parents due to the poor financial situation.”
Please join us as we pray with Dany for the children of Syria.