Never giving up
Jumaa’s story of strength
19 April 2022, rural Aleppo, Syria - “I was collecting truffles with my family when I stepped on the mine,” said Jumaa, 12, recalling the time he lost his foot a year ago.
Skyrocketing prices, shortage of basic supplies and limited job opportunities forced Jumaa, his family and many others to search for high-priced truffles to make ends meet. They took a two-hour car ride from their village Abu Abdeh in the eastern part of rural Aleppo to collect truffles.
As a result of 11 years of conflict in Syria, the grounds, where the truffles grow, have been contaminated with land mines and unexploded ordnance. They pose a grave risk for anyone attempting to harvest truffles.
“I was thrilled to go back to school, but some children started teasing me for using the crutches,”
After collecting a few truffles, Jumaa stepped on a mine and lost his foot. He was immediately rushed to the hospital where his wound was closed. “I immediately called my mother to reassure her and tell her that I’m ok,” said little Jumaa, recalling the time in the hospital.
When he returned home, Jumaa started adapting to his new life. He couldn’t play with his friends or ride his bike anymore. He started using crutches to walk around. Despite his injury, Jumaa wanted to continue his education and he went back to school after a couple of months in recovery. Jumaa is now in Grade 6 and wants to follow his dream of becoming a teacher. “I was thrilled to go back to school, but some children started teasing me for using the crutches,” said Jumaa. His friends often bullied him. It left him feeling alone and depressed.
“I can now ride my bike like I did before,”
In April 2021, a UNICEF -supported mobile team visited Jumaa’s village. The team provided a safe space as well as educational and fun activities to help children and adolescents in the village to develop skills to solve problems, cope with their emotions, and form and maintain relationships. With the desire to make more friends, Jumaa started taking part in the activities organized by the team three times a week.
Jumaa also met with one of the volunteers, Salah. “He always told me that I can achieve anything,” recalled Jumaa. Salah also started advising Jumaa on how to cope with bullying at school. “Whenever he came back home, he was always talking about what he learned from Salah,” said Mouhamad, his uncle.
With the support from the volunteers, Jumaa continued his life. He attends to the sheep twice a day, goes to school and does his homework. After a year of the injury, he can ride his bike again. “I’ve missed my bike so much,” Jumaa said with a big grin. In a few months, when his wound has completely healed, he will be able to install a prosthetic leg.
Since 2021, UNICEF has reached over 1.1 million children and more than 200,000 caregivers with explosive ordnance risk education in Syria. This lifesaving assistance has been made possible with thanks to generous contributions from the Andalusian Agency for International Cooperation for Development, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KFW Development Bank, Governments of Canada and Japan, Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF) and UNICEF’s Global Humanitarian Thematic Fund.