War catapults children into adulthood. To give them back their childhood, the Jesuit Refugee Service organized summer activities for hundreds of Syrian children. JRS is one of the partners Cordaid supports in Syria. Here’s an update of their amazing work in different parts of Syria.
More than 7 years now, violence and instability has been part of Syria. People face myriads of problems. One of them is that parents find it hard to answer the needs and requirements of their children. And that kids can no longer be kids.
Child labour has become rampant, as families struggle for their survival. Kids are forced to work long hours in hazardous occupations and in unhealthy environments. They are exposed to constant displacement and violent conflict. They have no safe place to learn, play or live. In short, they are denied all the joys of childhood.
To contribute to the psycho-social well-being of Syrian children, JRS provided a range of summer activities for kids these past few months. They did this in 3 places: Damascus, Aleppo and Kafroun
The first 3 months of 2018, areas in and around Damascus were heavily hit by mortar shelling, killing hundreds of people. Today, violence has subsided and an uneasy calm prevails. Damascus residents slowly started breathing again. JRS Damascus’ activities were also badly affected during these first months of the year. Some project sites hit by mortars and activities had to be suspended.
Today JRS Damascus is in full swing again. Summer activities are a joy to the children. And to the JRS animators and social workers, as you can see on the picture heading this article!
9-year old Ahmed is one of the kids who takes a reading class in the JRS Centre in Damascus. Read his story.
In Aleppo too, the situation has relatively improved over the past few months. Many people who fled the city are returning, hoping to find some place to live, with relatives or friends. But years of war have wreaked havoc on the city. The eastern parts are in ruins.
In Deir-Jmeil and Tal-Refa’at JRS distributed 1700 meals to displaced and war-affected families. Cooked meal distribution continued in Eastern Aleppo until the end of Ramadan. And a new field kitchen opened at the end of March, providing up to 1000 meals a day in Al Sheikh Maqsoud area. This severely shelled part of the city was cut off from food, fuel and health care services.
Also in Eastern Aleppo, the JRS Sakhour Community centre continues to serve the population. Educational classes for kids contribute to their growth and development. And literacy workshops, awareness sessions and a health program serves 1400 displaced persons every month, both adults and children.
Daily, more than 150 children come to JRS Kafroun. They come from areas that witnessed high degrees of violence. The children are traumatized and have other psychosocial problems. The educational activities and the counselling services help the children to lead normal lives.
Cordaid and JRS
For the past 4 years Cordaid and JRS have been working together to provide much needed humanitarian support to the people of Aleppo through field kitchens. Although the majority of the people left Aleppo, some stayed behind. Initially the support was therefore provided to people who stayed behind during the intense fighting and Aleppo offensive. At that time there was very little food left in the city. As the situation improved and the fighting stopped, many people started to return to Aleppo. JRS opened more field kitchens and more food distribution points. At some point they served warm meals to more than 12,000 people a day.
Fortunately for its people, the situation in Aleppo continues to improve and the field kitchen is gradually phasing out. Cordaid is therefore going to support JRS health centers. Lack of healthcare is affecting children, women and the elderly the most and makes them extremely vulnerable.
Cordaid support to JRS is funded both by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cordaid’s private donors.
(Input for this article came from JRS’ September newsletter)
Read more about Cordaid in Syria or about Cordaid’s Humanitarian Aid programs.