Written by Mona Monzer, Communication and Advocacy Officer, Save the Children in Lebanon.
Summer has started bringing heat waves all over Lebanon. High temperatures didn’t stand in the way of the regular activities taking place in the child-friendly spaces set up for displaced Syrian children, run by Sawa, one of Save the Children’s partners in the area.
These spaces provide children affected by the crisis in Syria with a comforting environment that helps them cope with the uncertainty around them, learn and play, and gives them time and space to just be children.
It also gives parents the opportunity to rebuild their lives while their children are with trusted caregivers from their community.
Children arrived at three in the afternoon. They were having fun learning new songs about children’s rights, nature and peace, drawing and playing with each other without complaint about the heat. However, air conditioners will be installed soon.
Amidst the different groups of children sitting on chairs and carpets and others outside in the shade, I met eight-year-old Feryal.
“Butterflies are free”
She was busy with ten other children cutting different shapes to hang on a big empty wall. Feryal loves to draw butterflies and fruits.
“Butterflies are free and fruits are so colourful,” she says.
Feryal comes from Hama in Syria and is staying in Lebanon with her parents, younger sister and older brother.
“When I think about Syria, I feel sad because I worry about my grandma who is still there. I don’t remember how we got here but all I know is that I was very happy to come to Lebanon. I’m so excited to go back to school – we had to stop when the war started at home.”
Feryal has been going to this child-friendly space since the beginning of May 2012.
“I’m very happy when I come here,” she explains. “It’s fun – I’ve met new people I enjoy spending time with. This doesn’t mean that I have forgotten my friends in Syria: Amira, Alaa and Salma. I miss them so much,” Feryal says sadly.
“We’ve lost Syria”
Hayyan was sitting with a different group. He wanted to finish his drawing, colour it in and hang it on a wooden board.
Eight-year-old Hayyan comes from Homs in Syria. He arrived in Lebanon with his parents and two younger sisters three months ago.
“I know why we came to Lebanon,” says Hayyan. “There’s war in Syria and shooting everywhere. I was never scared but my little sister would be crying all the time. I remember coming with my family in different cars before crossing the border.”
Hayyan is happy to participate in the child-friendly space. “I’m learning names of animals and plants in English,” he explains. “I play football with the other boys, we use the computers to play games as well. My closest friend here is Mazen – he’s Lebanese.”
Hayyan misses Syria. “Every time I think of home, I remember my aunt Khousoum,” he says. “I worry about her and I feel sad. We’ve lost Syria, it’s being destroyed.”
A chance to be children
Save the Children has established four child-friendly spaces in Bekaa, Lebanon, providing activities to more than 300 children residing in the area.
Training on children’s rights, child protection, resilience and animation techniques have been provided by the Save the Children team to social workers, volunteers and animators to build their capacity to reinforce children’s natural resiliency to respond to distressful and harmful events and enable them to be active and positive agents for change.