In recent months, SOS Children’s Villages has helped thousands of people in Damascus handle the winter cold, by providing winter clothing and other items as part of a sustained ‘Winterisation’ project.
The SOS Children’s Villages Syria team has distributed 17,500 winter coats and 10,500 blankets, providing crucial warmth to Internally Displaced Persons, especially children, in the freezing Damascus winter. More than 10,000 children were helped, in a push targeting over 3,000 households.
In addition, a total of 1,000 food baskets and non-food-item kits were distributed to a total of 13,000 individuals.
The SOS Children’s Villages team also helped thousands of households in coastal areas, as well as the cities of Aleppo and Daraa.
A critical concern
Caring for children - Distribution of coats and blankets in Damascus © W.Bachor
The majority of those affected are children of school going age. They live in families that struggle to come to terms with constant fear, bereavement, loss of livelihood and debilitating injuries. A high proportion has been exposed to scenes and extreme violence. Social workers at SOS Children’s Villages are gravely concerned for children such as Majed.
His family was forced to flee Rural Damascus last year. In the past, the six year-old excelled in school. But due to the conflict “his life has been turned upside down,” laments his father. Even though the boy was fortunate to enrol in a school near the shelter for displaced people – which has become the family home – he has lost all interest in learning or making new friends. Seven year-old Nidal shares a similar experience. Until recently he was very aggressive, hyperactive and refused to attend school. What happened over recent weeks changed the boys’ behaviour dramatically.
The catalyst for children
At Dwella in central Damascus a group of trained volunteers from across the community manage a new initiative that has provided over 1,000 children and their parents with what is needed to regain a more positive outlook. “Coming to the centre has helped organise his life,” says Nidal’s mother. “He started waking up in the morning on his own and has returned to school. He is now doing his homework regularly and is happier as a result”.
The emotional well-being of children is the objective. Child care experts from SOS Children’s Villages provide specialist training and ongoing support to the volunteers. Storytelling, arts, crafts and playing in a safe child-friendly environment delivers desperately needed relief to children and parents alike. It also provides child psychologists from the SOS Children’s Villages team with a chance to identify and give individual counselling to those who need it most.
Preparations are underway to replicate the success of the SOS Child-Friendly Space in Dwella to other parts of Syria. The team is working in collaboration with partners such as the Syrian Trust to ensure this generation of children will not lose out on the psycho-social support and education that that is so vital to their wellbeing both in the short and long-term. All parties are aware that there is a small window of opportunity left to achieve this. It is a race against time to ensure tens and thousands of children can overcome the trauma and return to enjoy their right to education.