Save the Children's Multi-Activity Center: A Platform Empowering the Voices of Youth

Monday 7 April 2014

“In Syria there was a car explosion right outside my school gate. I was walking out of the school and calling on my best friend to follow me and right there the explosion happened; she was killed in less than a second,” explained 17 year old Raghad.

Nearly 11 months ago, Raghad left her home, friends and family in Syria to flee the violence and find refuge in Jordan. When she was a child, Raghad’s parents divorced and each re-married, leaving Raghad to be raised by her grandmother most of her life. As the security situation in Syria was becoming unbearable Raghad was forced to come to Za’atari camp with her uncle’s family.

“I had a nervous breakdown after seeing my best friend die in front of me, I suffered from appendicitis from all the stress  I was under and had surgery before coming to Jordan,” said Raghad, “I lost many people close to me in the conflict.”

In March 2011 the conflict in Syria erupted, affecting thousands of children and families.  To date over 2.4 million Syrians found refuge in neighboring countries while 6.5 million are still inside Syria and in need of urgent assistance. In Jordan alone, nearly 600,000 Syrian refugees are residing in the country, over half of them are children. 

 “I left the most precious people to me back in Syria: my grandmother and uncle. Tears pour down my face whenever I remember them and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see them again,” she shared.

Raghad had a very difficult time adjusting to her life in Za’atari and refused to interact with people outside of her tent.

“When I first got to the camp all I did was cry, everything was strange to me here. I didn’t eat or sleep, all I wanted was to go back to Syria even though people were being killed.” Said Raghad.

She heard about Save the Children’s Multi-Activity Center from volunteers who worked there and approached Raghad and encouraged her to attend one of the activities. Since then Raghad has been attending the Multi-Activity Center for nince months.

“I soon began to realize that the center helps me get through my days in the camp,” said Raghad.

Save the Children’s Multi-Activity Centers provide a safe space for adolescents and youth in the camp to play, make friends, learn skills and languages. Save the Children is able to provide this kind of space for youth in Za’atari camp. As part of their schedules at the center, the girls also engage in psychosocial activities which help them build resilience by sharing their thoughts through different channels of communication.

“What specifically helps me at this center is the HEART sessions. I really wish every refugee living in this camp to come to the MAC space. It doest amazing things for you,” Raghad shared.

At Save the Children’s Multi-Activity Centres, we provide a program called Healing through Learning and Art (HEART) a fun psychosocial activity that children engage in to help them overcome the different levels of stress they have been under due to the conflict in Syria. During the HEART activity the girls sit in a circle, listen to relaxing music and discuss their thoughts and emotions with each other and the staff.

“I want to become a university professor in languages. I was afraid that I lost my future by coming to a refugee camp but I’m going to school now in Za’atari, and at the center they are teaching us English and French and that will help me keep my dream. Realizing that I am not better than anyone here made me want to adapt to life as a refugee. At the camp social class does not exist anymore, we are all refugees and all one. I know I have no choice but to feel blessed to be alive and adapt to my situation. Here I started to communicate with others and I actually found some of my old classmates here. My family noticed how down I was when we came to the camp and now they’re happy that my old loud personality is back,” explained Raghad.

According to the social worker at the center, what makes Raghad special is that she has not only benefited but she also teaches what she learns to girls in her neighborhood who do not attend the center with her. She implements the techniques that helped her at the center to help the girls around her.

“I like to teach girls what I learned at the center,” she said, “with my cousin for example, I help her write out her negative thoughts and fears on a piece of paper and then we rip them up into tiny little pieces, it makes us feel so much better.”

It is critically important to maintain these spaces within Za’atari – to give children and youth a safe and comfortable environment to learn skills, make new friends, and find new ways to cope with the new future they now face.