Damascus, Syria - I met Abdulrahman during a school visit in Rural Damascus last summer. I was looking for a story about children benefitting from ‘Curriculum B’ education programme UNICEF supports when we met. His eyes and the small chat we had told me a lot about him and his persistence to go to school despite the challenges he was facing.
“Bullying hurts me. I feel extremely sad when someone points out to my missing hand,” he said and explained how he felt like quitting school every time other children teased him about his amputated hand.
“Bullying hurts me. I feel extremely sad when someone points out to my missing hand.”
It brought me back to the memory of being teased because of a scoliosis brace I had to wear to school as a child. I explained to young Abdulrahman how despite all the hurtful comments I received, I decided not to let anyone, or anything stop me from continuing my studies and doing the job I love.
Fayez, his father, told me about the hardship the family had gone through because of the conflict. They had suffered injuries and losses. Abdulrahman’s one-year-old brother had died in 2017. They had also struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table during the displacements and years of fighting.
On my way back home, I was thinking about the boy. I felt I needed to do something to help him, so I started making calls.
A few days later, thanks to a responsive network of people and partners that I was able to reach, Abdulrahman was enrolled in a UNICEF-supported psychosocial support centre in his hometown Douma, Rural Damascus. He began to attend group sessions as well as individual counselling with a specialized case manager.
“Although the centre is not close to our house, and Abdulrahman has to walk a long distance to reach it, he never misses a session. I have witnessed a positive change in his attitude in general and specifically towards school.”
A local charity in Damascus I had approached for support, decided to cover the expenses for a prosthetic hand for Abdulrahman. “I wear my new hand every day to school. It makes me feel stronger,” Abdulrahman said. “I will not run away again,” he added smiling when I asked if he would still consider dropping out of school because of bullying.
Abdulrahman currently attends UNICEF-supported ‘Curriculum B’ at school. The intensive learning programme helps children who missed out on education to catch up to their peers. In parallel, he still attends psychosocial support sessions. He told me how seriously he takes his learning and dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer.
What began as a search for story about a child ended up as a powerful encounter that reminded me of the impact we can make as humanitarians. “It is me who should thank Abdulrahman for the joy he brought to my heart,” I wrote to Fayez, his dad, when he sent me a text to thank me for helping Abdulrahman.
Some 53,000 students have benefitted from UNICEF -supported ‘Curriculum B’ programme across the country since 2022. The activities were funded by the Governments of Bulgaria, Canada and Norway and the Republic of Korea.
*Sandra is a Communication Facilitator with UNICEF in Rural Damascus and the southern area, Syria. She frequently meets with children and families and writes their stories to make their voices heard.