Smiles behind the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Since 2011, the Syrian civil war has torn millions of lives apart. Syrian families have had no choice but to leave their homes and even family members behind to seek safer shelter for their children.
On World Refugee Day, we look at how Syrian refugee children are adapting to their new lives in Egypt and still smiling despite their sadness. We share quotes from mothers of Syrian refugee children to find out how they’re transitioning into their new lives after the horrific scenes they have faced. War takes an emotional toll on everyone but children are especially vulnerable.
Syrian refugee children moving to Egypt
There are over one hundred thousand Syrian refugees registered in Egypt who have settled into new homes in one suburb in Greater Cairo.
But it’ll never truly be home as nearly all have left loved ones behind, having packed their memories with them as they sought sanctuary abroad.
Where they could decide their destination, many chose Egypt because of the cultural similarities. Although the different dialects make it challenging for both children and adults.
Some of the younger refugee children have few memories of their former life in Syria.
But many have been left emotionally scarred by what they witnessed back home.
To help the children adjust to their new surroundings, we set up the Education in Harmony project in 2015. The project currently offers schooling and psychosocial support to 1,400 vulnerable Syrian refugee children who are severely affected by the war.
Eighty per cent of the school’s pupils are aged between 7 and 14 years: many are old enough to recall the war in vivid and excruciating detail. Accepting what they’ve seen and the chain of events that has brought them to their new life can be a painful and gruelling process.
Syria remains a vivid memory: Quotes from mothers of Syrian refugee children
Ahmed is one of those children receiving support. At 10 years old, his calm demeanour would never suggest to an outsider that he has been through such an ordeal. He speaks calmly, but begins to fidget as he remembers the day his world was turned upside down.
His family was forced to hide in a bunker when their apartment came under fire in August 2012. After armed men attacked the shelter, killing three relatives, his father was arrested, and the surviving family members were so terrified of danger that they stayed hidden underground for six days.
11-year-old Rana used to live in Aleppo, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. Despite the fact that she was seven when she left, she insists she doesn’t remember Syria and that she most definitely doesn’t want to visit.
Rana’s mother, however, tells a different story, saying that actually, her daughter can recall in detail her hometown, right down to the street names. Far from forgetting, Rana had been so affected by what happened to her that she is scared to discuss her former life for fear of being forced to return to it.
How we're helping Syrian refugee children to smile again
But the Education in Harmony project is helping children like Rana and Ahmed get back a sense of normality.
The school uses group therapy and individual sessions to help the children come to terms with what happened and to accept their new reality.
Mother of Syrian refugee child