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Will you come out and play?

Sabine Copinga, Communications Adviser, blogs from Zaatari camp on the Syrian border in Jordan.

When we talk about the children affected by Syria’s crisis, we  tend to talk about ‘refugees’ or ‘traumatised children’ in plural.

But the fact is that there’s an individual child behind every refugee and every trauma. Each with his or her own name, face, character, dreams, wishes, sorrow, memories and loved ones.

The goal of the child-friendly spaces that Save the Children is running is to bring back the individual child.

Extreme stress

Because of the traumas, profound stress and irregular live they have lived, most kids have forgotten who they are as a person.

Because of everything they have been through, their heart has disconnected from their head. This is a physical response to the profound stress they have been through.

It causes uncontrolled behaviour. They don’t know how to cope with their emotions, resulting in aggression, an apparent lack of emotions or an overdrive of emotions.

Many have no clue any more of their identity. They can’t remember the dreams they had before.

Structure and a chance to play 

By bringing back order in their lives and by offering sports and play, we help children reconnect with themselves. Days in the child friendly spaces pass by with order and regularity, so children know exactly what to expect. This gives them peace of mind.

Children can express their emotions through smileys and they are given things to do both individually and in teams. Today we tinkered; each child took part in the production of a piece of art. We also played football. Team sports make you work as a team and find your own role in a group.

Finding themselves

Through the child-friendly spaces, we offer children support as they do the ‘work’ to find themselves again.

Children start to laugh again, simply because something funny happens. A child will remember how to dream again or his or her favorite colour.

Today I met Mohamad, Kamal, Farah and Bilal. Children who love red, blue, yellow or green; who used to made a snowman with olives as eyes back home and remember this with a smile on their face; who want to become a doctor, carpenter or engineer when they grow up.

Children who look forward to horsing around when they go home from the child-friendly space.

This blog was first published on Tuesday 23rd June 2013

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