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Ready for the winter and snow

Aya Rekani is eight years old. She is wearing a French braid which suits her beautifully. Aya’s family – her parents and five siblings – is her greatest blessing.

It has almost been a year since the Reception Center for Refugees and Migrants in Divljana became their home. Every weekday, Aya gets on a little school bus that, together with another twenty children from the Center, takes her to the closest primary school in nearby Bela Palanka.

Eight-year-old Aya Rekani in the Divljana Reception Center for Refugees and Migrants in Bela Palanka, Southern Serbia.

And there, everything is easy – Aya has made a dozen of new friends since starting school.

“I got a couple of good new friends. We study and play together”, says Aya.

Aya works on her homework in her room in the Center, which she shares with her family. She is curious and bright, so doing homework is usually not hard at all. What happens after the homework is done – playing with her friends – is an additional motivation.

The Reception Center in Divljana, sitting on the slopes of the Suva Mountain, is a little heaven for outdoors activities. Apart from the slides, seesaws and swings on a tiny playground, now covered in fallen leaves and oak nuts, the Center also has an ICT corner where Aya is making her first online steps. There is also a child-friendly space where doing homework is easy when everyone is working together.

Aya Rekani from Iraq, Samira Esarze from Afghanistan and other children playing with Lidija Ilic and Maja Andjelic.

Yet, playing outdoors is when everyone is happiest. Especially on warm and sunny days. Aya enjoys playing with the fallen leaves. With each new leaf that touches the ground, winter is coming closer and closer.

Aya’s family made it to Serbia from Iraq around the New Year. They arrived to the Center in Divljana on the first day of 2017.

“We lived in Mosul until 2016. Then we simply had to leave. We headed to Sweden or Germany, but now we live here. Aya and the kids are enjoying the new school”, says Aya’s father Zumer Rakani.

Aya Rekani with her brother Zaid Rekani stand in line to receive the warm winter clothes.

As winter is approaching, Aya and some other fifty children living in the Center are eagerly awaiting snow so they can make a snowman. That’s why it’s important to be ready for winter.

It took only a couple of minutes for a line to form in the main room in the Center. One package after another, and in half an hour, all the residents quickly found their space to unpack winter clothes.
Socks, jackets, warm sweaters. Aya is impatient. In a blink of an eye, she unwrapped her new clothes and put on a new, warm sweater.

“It is soft and warm. And nice. I like the color and that it makes me feel warm”, says Aya. The next moment, she is already outside. She hurries to join her friends playing on a slide.

Sadika Muzamel, Hamidi Abaset and Barakzai Ahmad Poya playing outdoors wearing new winter clothes.

There is not much time left for playing with the fallen leaves and oak nuts. Once winter arrives, the real fun revolves around snow and snowmen. With the warm winter clothes, the children in Divljana are now ready for the cold.

Thanks to the generous donation from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF provided warm winter shoes and clothes for the children staying in the Divljana Reception Center for Refugees and Migrants. Now everybody is ready for winter and the first snow.

Petra Zivic



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