Teaching hope and how to cope

Teaching hope and how to cope

  • Child Protection
  • Syria
  • Refugees
  • Story

March 11, 2021

WARNING this story contains sensitive content

11-year-old Majed didn’t have school yard games or weekend sleepovers to look forward to, but he did have the river. Swimming with his friends was Majed's rare and simple delight. A moment just to be a kid.

A Syrian boy living on a refugee settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Majed tragically drowned in early 2020. He left behind an adoring little brother, 9-year-old Aziz, and his devastated and shocked family.

“I miss him dearly. I wish he never went swimming on that day,” says his mother, Khatma with tears in her eyes. “Majed was a very caring little boy. He did not go to school because he worked on the streets to support us. He used to give me all the money and not even take some for himself."

Majed's mother proudly showed us a picture of her selfless son.

George Mghames

Majed's little brother Aziz felt his passing very deeply.

“He was my best friend," Aziz says. "I wish my brother can come back to life so I can play with him again. I miss him a lot.”

In the days after the tragedy, World Vision staff met with the family, providing immediate pastoral and practical support. Financial assistance, food, counselling and specific psycho-social support for Aziz through a Child Friendly Space has enabled the family to survive and slowly begin to recover.

Aziz learns about ways to cope with grief and how to begin looking forward at a Child Friendly Space session.

George Mghames

“We see a need to provide the children with psycho-social support sessions so that they can cope with loss and overcome the sadness,” says Adel Abou Hanna, Outreach Facilitator at World Vision in Lebanon.

“I learn and play with my friends here. These sessions make me feel better,” explains Aziz.

For children confused with grief and anxiety, Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) provide an opportunity for play, peer interaction and safety.

Aziz speaks with Adel Abou Hanna, a World Vision CFS educator and outreach facilitator.

George Mghames

These centres are also prepared to equip the most vulnerable children of a community with skills to overcome threats and danger. In Aziz's settlement, the most vulnerable include working children like Majed.

To survive the deadly Syrian conflict, Aziz's family was forced to flee their home in Aleppo, leaving behind everything. They have lived in a three-room tent for the past four years. And like many refugee children, Majed worked on the streets.

For four years, this three-room tent has been the family's home in an informal settlement in Bekaa Valley.

George Mghames

Child labour is prevalent in places like Lebanon. It's cheap, readily accessible and ongoing discrimination against refugees means protections for children and their rights are often ignored, even by authorities.

In Lebanon, many refugee adults lack the paperwork that would give them right to work. Not being allowed to earn a living robs parents of dignity and the ability to provide for their children, adding to the dehumanising nature of their situation.

Children like Majed honourably choose to support their families the only way they know how. But working on the street leaves children highly vulnerable to violence, abuse and trafficking.

Young Syrian refugee boys sell household items on the street to assist their families with rent and basic essentials.

Jon Warren

World Vision's Child Friendly Spaces invite working children to learn about the dangers of the street in a playful, safe environment. Sessions teach the children what to do when a stranger wants to abduct them or how to recognise dangerous or illegal solicitations.

A Child Friendly Space is not a child-minding centre.

A CFS provides children with professionally designed activities that help them to identify and express their emotions and build their internal capacity to overcome. Protecting a child by ensuring they have the tools to cope and stir hope is critical in helping them build a future.

The CFS class. During Covid-19, activities have had to adapt to ensure safety for participants and the community.

George Mghames

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Syria on the Eastern end of the Medditerranean is one of most ancient civilisations on earth. It is home to sites sacred to both Christians and Muslims alike. The country has been in the midst of a complex civil war since 2011, after peaceful protests were met with deadly violence from the country’s government. For many years since then, Syria ranked last on the Global Peace Index, making it the most violent country in the world.

  • More than half the country’s population have been forced to flee their homes and are in need of humanitarian assistance
  • Economic sanctions against Syria have crippled its economy, and almost 12% of children under 5 suffer acute malnutrition
  • 1 in 3 schools in the country have been destroyed