Syrian children in East Amman inch their way back to a normal life
By Lisa Marie Ullrich
AMMAN, 2 May 2013 - In the vibrant heart of East Amman, 80 kilometers away from the Syrian border and the fighting and violence beyond it, everyday life seems to continue as normal. Yet in an old building at the end of a small alley, hundreds of children from Syria are trying to cope with their painful memories, which despite the distance in time and space seem still fresh in their minds.
Supported and funded by UNICEF, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) called East Amman Charity provides these children with remedial classes and psychological support so that they can cope with the trauma of war.
Unlike refugees in established camps, Syrians living in host communities are hard to reach. Most are not registered with the UN Refugee Agency and have chosen to live in rented apartments or with relatives among the local population. But with three quarters of the around 450,000 Syrian Refugees in Jordan seeking sanctuary outside of the camps, providing them with the necessary life-saving assistance is crucial.
At the East Amman Charity centre, several hundred children of all ages from Iraq, Jordan and Syria receive such support. They are offered a wide range of classes in English, Arabic, Math, Science, Sports and Arts, which will allow them to resume their schooling, after having been out of school for months or even years. For the older ones, who have already left school, Computer Courses are offered to help them find work.
Most of the children in the centre — 75 per cent — are Syrian, such as 10-year-old Fatma who had stopped going to school when the crisis started. Instead, she would spend her days at home and witness the violence unfold around her. “One day, armed men came to my house, looking for my brother. When they didn’t find him, they started beating my cousin in front of us and hurt him badly,” she tells me.
Now that she can attend classes in the centre, Fatma feels she has regained at least a little bit of normality.
When she and her classmates start singing a song about the love to their homeland, I can feel how deeply they miss their old lives back in Syria. But the smile on their faces while singing equally bears witness to the happiness and joy they are rediscovering now.
“When these children came here,” the centre’s project manager Sabah Halasa tells us, “most of them were in shock and struggled to deal with their angers and fears.” Listening to their passionate singing in music lessons, watching their commitment during sports activities and witnessing their active participation in class, it is heartwarming to see how they are slowly but steadily finding their way back to a normal life.