Project Amal ou Salam
According to the latest UNHCR report, over 115,000 Syrians have been killed, 5 million are internally displaced, 2 million have fled to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, and 6 million are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. The UN considers this to be the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
On 15 March , 2011, a group of school children in the city of Daraa changed the history of Syria forever. Easily influenced, and repeating what they heard on the news, the children wrote on a wall, “The people want the downfall of the regime.” Bashar al-Assad’s government responded by detaining more than 15 of these children. During their detention, the children were tortured, some accounts claiming they were beaten and had their nails pulled off, one by one. Many Syrians were outraged that the secret service would permit this mistreatment of children, and in response, they took to the streets and protested. Disconcerted by unrest elsewhere in the region, al-Assad’s government responded violently, and attempted to repress protesters and arrested civilians. Over time, pockets of resistance grew and the movement transformed from a non-violent protest movement to a full civil war.
Four million Syrian children are affected by the violence. Only 100,000 children have continued their schooling despite efforts within the refugee camps and only one fifth of them have received counseling. The lack of education and trauma counseling is leaving children unequipped to rebuild post-conflict Syria. On a recent visit to Turkish and Jordanian refugee camps, CRDC’s Executive Director, Aziz Abu Sarah, and Program Officer for Syria, Nousha Kabawat, noticed the lack of educational resources available and an urgent need for intervention. Many of the children under the age of 8 could not read or write. Today, half of all registered Syrian refugees are children. To meet these needs, CRDC plans to run several summer camps for Syrian children that will focus on education, trauma healing, and healthy ways for coping with stress and grief. CRDC also plans to make innovative use of sports, arts, and other common activities not present in the camps to further benefit the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of the children.
Of growing concern are the lasting effects that trauma will have on the Syrian population. Nearly 100% of children in refugee camps have lost a family member to the indiscriminate violence. We allow them creative and individual expression, and sessions to provide open dialogue, giving them a safe space to tackle the issues of religion and society that they face, develop their own ideas and visions for the future of Syria, and to express themselves freely amongst their peers. Through the joint efforts of CRDC Staff and volunteers mined from an extensive, pre-existing, network of activists in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and America, CRDC believes that it is possible to provide Syrian children with a foundation of skills and experiences vital to facing the difficult years ahead of them.
At CRDC, we believe that children are the future of Syria. Empowering and educating children will revive the country. Inspiring hope, putting smiles on their faces, and reminding them of Syria’s past and future potential is the goal of Project Amal ou Salam. The young victims of the conflict should have the chance to be more than “the lost generation.”