Scarred by War, Amira learns to Play Again

Wednesday 28 August 2013

By Farah Sayegh, Information and Communication Officer, Save the Children, Jordan

“I was shy because the other children laughed at me,” Amira tells me behind her innocent smile and dark brown eyes. I could see the burn marks on the sides of her face and I notice some bald spots on her head from the incident. She is 10 years old with a neat pony tail of golden hair.

 In an attempt to escape the violence in her city last year with her family, Amira was severely injured by shrapnel that hit her whole body from a nearby explosion that day. Due to the current dreadful state of hospitals in Syria and limited medical supplies, Amira was not properly treated.

Now Za’atari camp has been Amira’s home for the past year. The burn marks on her little body and face were much more apparent at the time of her arrival to the camp.

“She refused to leave the tent for any reason, and on the rare occasions that she did, she would come back crying to me because this child called her names, and that child moved away from her and it broke my heart to see my daughter in this weak state,” Amira’s mother tells me while tears fill up her eyes. She hugs Amira who is sitting in her lap continuously scratching her arms from the scars that occasionally bleed under her clothes.

For more than two years children in Syria have endured appalling suffering. Hundreds have died in brutal attacks and many more like Amira have been severely injured and left untreated. These children have lost everything from their homes and schools to water and clothes, and in this case even their innocent self confidence. No child deserves this, I think to myself as I have a playful conversation with shy Amira.  

Things are brighter for Amira now that she has been going to one of Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces near her tent for one year. Amira’s introvert personality suddenly blooms as one of our field coordinators approaches, who I then learn has been working closely with Amira since day one. She proudly informs me about Amira’s drastic improvement as she recalls the girl’s progress since last year.

“She would stay in the corner of the room not wanting to speak or play. I noticed the disgusted looks on the children’s faces as they looked at her, I then started to get her a change of clothes before the start of activities to allow her mother to wash the bloodstained shirt and pants, the only clothing Amira was able to bring from Syria,” the Save the Children field coordinator told me. She made sure that Amira was participating in all psychosocial activities at the Child Friendly Space, be it drawing or learning songs, and helped her build friendships with the other children.

“Rawan, Nour, Aisha, Sarah, Yasmine..” Amira shares with me the names of her friends. Her mother explains how glad she is that her daughter now comfortably leaves the tent to play, has been going to the mosque with her siblings, and insists that her mother enrolls her at the school in the camp.

After we say warm goodbyes, I leave Amira’s tent with mixed feelings. I admit I feel a sense of pride that I belong to an organization that brought back normalcy into Amira’s life and lifted the spirits of thousands of children like her in this response. However I also leave with deep guilt inside me, knowing that the number of Syrian child refugees just topped one million, I can’t help but wonder about the remaining untold numbers of Amiras suffering inside Syria, their untreated injuries, and their desperate need for the kind of help Amira received here in Za’atari camp.