CHILD FAMILY CENTERS: TURNING ISOLATION INTO PARTICIPATION

Thursday 22 May 2014

“I’ve always struggled the most with my daughter Samar and her choice to isolate herself from her siblings and other children,” explained Samar’s mother Arwa. 

The family of six fled Syria 16 months ago as they were looking for security above all, and wanted their children to get back to school as soon as possible. Like almost all Syrian refugees, the family witnessed intense shelling in their city and feared for their children’s safety.

Being shy by nature, 11 year old Samar’s lack of engagement with other children worsened after she came to Za’atari camp. She did not want to interact with children and was completely against the idea of going to school in the camp. 

“I didn’t want to speak to people and everything here was new to me, I missed my school and my friends in Syria,” shared Samar.

Arwa heard about a Child Friendly Space (CFS) run by Save the Children with the support of UNICEF, and decided to attend one of the sessions and activities to find out more about it before registering her four young children.

“I was very impressed by the quality of activities and how they were all based on educating or raising awareness of children and their parents,” said Arwa.

Arwa went back home and informed her children that she will register them at the child friendly space. Samar had a hard time accepting to go but she was encouraged to join her siblings there. The children were soon engaged and attending the space regularly, and as shy as Samar was she began slowly opening up to the other girls with the support of the staff at the CFS.

Arwa shared, “It hurt me that my children felt lonely at the camp, and the atmosphere I witnessed at the child friendly space made me comfortable sending my children there knowing that they would learn to make friends in what I saw as a loving environment.”

After a few weeks of attending the child friendly space, Samar’s self confidence was boosted and she accepted the idea of going back to school in the camp. Samar and her siblings missed a total of one semester of schooling before coming to Jordan. According to Samar’s mother, she has never seen her daughter so open with people and confident. Samar has enthusiastically participated in three plays organized by the children friendly space and made friends at her new school.

“Even though I am repeating my grade here, I’m happy I go to school,” said Samar, “I think education is the most important thing in life because it teaches you how to read and write.”

Arwa expressed the sadness she felt when she found out that the child friendly space her children were attending had been shut down. One week later she was informed that Save the Children were re-establishing the space and calling it a Child and Family Center not far from where she lived. Afraid that her children might go back to their old behaviors, during that week Arwa implemented some CFS activities and songs at home with all four of her young children. 

“I felt as if the CFS was like medicine that was suddenly cut off and needed to be continued, so I kept asking around about it until I learned about the Child and Family Center,” said Arwa.

Save the Children replaced the Child Friendly Spaces in the camp with Child and Family Centers. The centers provide the children with informal education and psychosocial support activities as well as reaching out to parents and the camp community and forming child protection committees. Through our Child and Family Centers we are reaching over 7,000 children in Za’atari camp. 

Many times Arwa attends the sessions with her youngest son as she learns to adopt the child friendly approach that is practiced at the center. 

“This center completely changed our perspective on the camp. Seeing the approach used to deal with the children, made me a better mother in these stressful circumstances,” she explained gladly.

Arwa is one of the active mothers who attend one of our Child and Family Centers in Za’atari. She has helped bring new children into the center, by informing mothers while the women cook at the communal kitchen near Arwa’s caravan.