This morning we went to visit one of the four child-friendly spaces (CFS) Save the Children has set up in the Bekaa region of Lebanon in response to the Syrian refugee crisis.
These spaces are safe areas where children can play together, learn and begin to regain a sense of normalcy following the traumatic upheaval they’ve gone through.
The CFS we visited had recently been relocated after the old venue became too cramped to accommodate the 80 children who come here every day.
It’s not just Syrian children using this space though. Kurdish, Palestinian and Lebanese children can all be seen playing alongside each other too.
In every class we visited children were drawing, playing or singing. Ultimately the CFS gives these children a space in which they can have fun, learn and most importantly just be children.
“There was shooting all around us”
In one of the classes I met seven-year-old Mohammad who had recently fled Syria. His family left when it became too risky to stay.
Mohammad remembers being very scared when they left, “I knew we had to leave. There was shooting all around us. I closed my eyes and my mother carried me in her arms,” he says. “There was shooting all around us,” he repeats.
The social workers at the CFS told me he was very shy and isolated at first but now he is enjoying his time with friends, “Mohammad has opened up to other children through collective activities,” they explained.
“He is now more active; he can sing in front of others and wants to participate in every activity.”
Mohammad seemed to agree with this assessment too, just before leaving us to go and play with his friends he told me: “I like to come here, I have a lot of fun and I learn new things.”
Mohammed isn’t the only success story from the CFS. We were told that all those affected by the violence in Syria have become more colourful and happy since joining.
Five-year-old Manar is another example; she was always drawing her mother in darker colours when illustrating her family. Now she’s using lighter colours – a sign that she’s finding it easier to deal with some of the distressing things she’s had to experience.
In the Bekaa, we have already established four CFSs.
With the number of displaced Syrian people increasing, Save the Children will create more CFSs in other areas to provide safe spaces for new arrivals.
It can’t be overstated what an incredible impact the CFSs are having on children suffering from psychosocial problems in the region. The change in children like Mohammad and Manar are just two shinning examples.