Jordan

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom visits Syrian children in Jordan

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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom recently travelled to Jordan to meet Syrian children and their families affected by the conflict that is now in its fourth year. Jordan is hosting more than 580,000 refugees, over half of them children.

 

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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom meets with Abdul Khader (right) and other members of his family, in the two-room dwelling where they have lived since their arrival two years ago in the northern city of Irbid, capital of Irbid Governorate.

By Toby Fricker

IRBID/ZA’ATARI, Jordan, 16 April 2014 – In a run-down washroom between two apartment blocks in Jordan’s northern city of Irbid, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom chatted with a Syrian family. They fled Aleppo two years ago for safety in Jordan. But since then, they’ve been living a precarious life in a basic accommodation.

Mr. Bloom travelled to Jordan to meet Syrian children and their families affected by the conflict that is now in its fourth year. Some 2.5 million Syrians have fled their country, and Jordan is hosting more than 580,000 refugees, over half of them children. 

Missing out on education

Thirteen-year old Esmaeil tells Mr. Bloom he has been out of school for two years. “I finished grade 3 in Syria, but it was in vain,” he says. His 8-year old brother, Murat, has never had any formal education. Their father explains that the nearest school is full, and they can’t afford the transport costs to reach another one. 

For many Syrian families who have been in Jordan for one or two years, savings are running dry and paying the rent is a challenge. Finding extra funds for school transport is in many cases not an option.

“I am quite shocked at the situation that this family has found themselves in,” Mr. Bloom says afterwards as he reflects on the conversation.  

UNICEF works with Jordan’s Ministry of Education to increase the capacity of schools through a ‘double shift’ system. There are now 99 schools providing additional space in areas with large concentrations of Syrian families. Some 85,000 Syrian children have registered at public schools across Jordan.

Healing and connecting

While Esmaeil has dropped out of formal school, he does attend a UNICEF-supported child and family protective place. Mr. Bloom joined Esmaeil on the bus to the centre, which is run by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD) and the Italian NGO INTERSOS. Activities such as music, drama and art classes provide an opportunity for children to express themselves as part of a wider psychosocial support programme.

In a small room, a group of 6- to 16-year-old girls are singing. “Where is mum? Where is dad?” they sing with passion and emotion. It’s a song that represents war and loss.

“They’ve experienced a lot more than any child should, and what that does to their brain, to their psyche and to their social skills – it’s something that I don’t suppose we will really have a sense of until a few years’ time,” Mr. Bloom says.

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0429/Diffidenti
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom (right) speaks with Samer and his daughter, who is showing Mr. Bloom her drawings in their home, in Amman, the capital. Samer, his wife and their five children are refugees from the Syrian city of Homs. His children receive psychosocial support and participate in art, music, drama and other recreational activities at a child and family protection centre in the city.

The children performed a play about the role of the emergency services in society, and Mr. Bloom was invited to the stage. “As an actor, you constantly put yourselves in the shoes of a character and their experiences in life. So you can see at a very basic level how that would help these kids to connect and relate to others,” he says.

His day in Irbid culminated in a visit to the Omar Bin Abdul Aziz boy’s school, where more than 500 Syrian children attend the afternoon shift. Schools like this provide many Syrian children with an opportunity to continue their education. But sustained funding is needed to further increase space and ensure that children like Esmaeil do not miss out.

Za’atari refugee camp – day two

As the early morning sun rose across Jordan’s northern desert, Mr. Bloom walked into a caravan in Za’atari refugee camp that houses some 100,000 Syrians. It’s 13-year old Najah’s family home. Her 15-year-old sister recently married, which means that Najah, now the eldest girl, has to help her mother around the home. She has missed the last month of school.

“Najah has expressed a real interest in going back to school. So I’m going to go with her now,” said Mr. Bloom. It’s a 10-minute walk from Najah’s caravan to school number two. The three schools in Za’atari provide space for 15,000 children. Najah took her place in the grade 6 class. Mr. Bloom learned some Arabic phrases and reiterated the importance of education to the children.

While the school provides some normalcy to the lives of children in Za’atari, psychosocial support is also critical to the healing process. At an adolescent friendly space, run by NGO International Medical Corps, with support from UNICEF, Mr. Bloom danced and played football with young Syrian children.

“Today they are happy and singing and clapping,” he says. “A year from now, five years from now – how are they going to be feeling then, and what are they going to be doing with their lives?”


 

 

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