Read our 2022 annual report
For many children in Syria, they have never known peace, and home is a place the adults remember.
Enduring such harsh conditions would be hard for any family, but it is even harder for those who have suffered violence and persecution. The disruption of childhood can be traumatising, and the ability of caregivers to support children is compromised by their own distress.
Bahzat* works as a facilitator in Concern's Protection programme in Syria. The programme, which receives humanitarian funding from the European Union, seeks to strengthen the protective environment around children and their families living in camps for internally displaced people, as well as supporting their emotional wellbeing.
Psychosocial support is provided to children at Child-Friendly Spaces, as well as to their caregivers through caregiver support sessions.
The spaces are warm and inviting spaces which provide an opportunity for children to be children; to socialise, learn and play.
Child-Friendly Spaces provide an opportunity for children to learn new skills, to express themselves, to test out building safe and healthy relationships, as well as providing a trusted point of contact where they know they can go for help or ask questions when necessary. Over the course of the programmes, regular contact between protection workers and the children allows protection works to identify children who might be in need of further support and refer them to other services when necessary.
Additionally, protection workers disseminate key child protection messages for children to be more aware on how to prevent and protect themselves from risks.
Since beginning in 2014, Concern's Child-Friendly Spaces have benefitted 11,512 children in Syria.
Bahzat describes the impact displacement has on children: “When we assess the children, it generally shows that they have low awareness of resilience, how to deal with new situations, hygiene, interacting with new people. They haven’t got to learn about these skills because of the crisis.”
“The child-friendly space is a place where the children have a right to feel free and play, and also to learn new information about topics like hygiene, protection and mindfulness,”
Bahzat facilitates four 90-minute sessions for the children every day, with ten children participating in each session. Through psychosocial support activities, Bahzat uses different approaches during the sessions, to facilitate children’s understanding of the topics provided through using arts and crafts, or music and dance, to encourage the children's creativity and imagination and to build trust with them to talk about the bigger issues and challenges in their life.
In 2022, Concern reached 3,522 children in this way.
“Children who enrol in our Child-Friendly Spaces take part in sessions such as life skills, psychosocial activities, wellbeing, interacting with new people and health.
“It is a space for children to fully feel free, to play, to learn and you can see that in their behaviour. The children are happier, and they would prefer to stay with us for a long time, but it is a short-term programme.”
The children attend the Child-Friendly Spaces for up to three months, and their progress in that time is carefully monitored.
“You can see a big difference in the attitude and behaviour of the child between the first time they are enrolled in our child friendly space, and their last day here,” Bahzat concludes.
*Name has been changed