Terre des hommes (Tdh) works in Jordan with Terre des hommes Germany to support Syrian children and their families who have fled the civil war in Syria. A musical interlude allows them to forget the horrors they have experienced – a least for a little while.
In a former warehouse, the high white walls are now decorated with colourful cartoon characters. There are a few plastic chairs and music. The Syrian singer, Dima Orsho, has come. The 40 children, all around 12 years old, are now listening to her. Their shyness only lasts a while until the boys and girls join in. Dima encourages them, listens to their requests and sings their favourite songs. And then two boys get up to show what they can do: a rap. Friends, who would not normally have the courage to join in, are called by name until they do. The brave are rewarded with loud applause. Three girls get up, their voices almost fail them due to the excitement. It doesn’t matter. The others in the room sing even louder and carry their friends along.
The next day, the clarinettist Kinan Asmeh, a Syrian who has been living in the USA for some time, and the German accordionist Manfred Leuchter, come and join the singer. The three devote a few days to music with the children between concerts in Beirut and Amman. The musicians are certainly used to seeing beaming faces during their concerts, but perhaps they have never had an audience in such need of a few moments of joy.
Half of the refugees are children
In Jordan, Terre des hommes cares for 3,450 Syrian refugee children and children from poor Jordanian families. Only a small portion of the refugees live in camps, most live in towns or communities. The town of Irbed, with a population of 500,000, is home to 120,000 refugees. Half of them are children. “We make sure that they feel better,” says Yasmeen Hijjawi. The young Jordanian is a child psychologist and works not only with children but also with parents and carers. The children in this Terre des hommes project have nearly all lost a mother or a father. They have seen the war and are afraid of bombs and snipers. They have seen people who have been injured or killed and people who kill. “When they come to us, they are completely distraught. Some are very restless, others are completely withdrawn,” explains Yasmeen. “They do not have the confidence to do anything and feel powerless. Many feel rage. They cannot understand why they have to suffer so much.” The children are safe in Jordan and can go to school since the schools are working double shifts. New worries are pressing: the UN food vouchers are not enough to last a whole month. The parents are not allowed to work. Families live in overcrowded conditions. And who knows how Grandma or friends, who stayed behind, are doing.
In the Terre des hommes centre, there is room to play. It is easier to learn together at the new school. At lunchtime, there is a warm meal. “We teach the children that they are fine, just as they are,” says Yasmeen. “For it is perfectly normal for them to act the way they do. We help them so that all these depressing feelings do not tear them apart. We are there, no matter what.” Playing, laughing together, making new friends, making something –all of this strengthens the resilience of children to learn to live with great loss and under new circumstances.
This report was made by Barbara Küppers, Head of Children’s Rights, Terre des hommes, Germany.