2 Year Snapshot
- Child Friendly Spaces model for kids out of school
- School support for 600 children
- 3,000 refugees kept warm
- 15,000 refugees given food
- Facilitated 1,000 families’ refugee status
Over 2 million Syrians fleeing the war have poured into Lebanon; more than to any other country. This generous nation of only four million people has limited capacity to deal with a refugee influx of this scale. Yet, as fighting in Syria intensifies, the number of innocent civilians affected continues to grow.
Since the early days of the Syrian crisis, AMURT Lebanon has been supporting refugees in the mountainous upper Chouf district with their basic needs; providing fuel, blankets and warm clothing to protect against the cold winters. AMURT’s current focus is on the wellbeing of the refugee children.
The Plight of Syrian Children
Up to half the refugee children have no access to education for a variety of reasons; and many have not seen a school classroom for two years. Even refugee children in school face difficulties: one in three are unable to function properly due to the psychological scars left by the traumatizing experiences of war.
AMURT is one of several NGOs working to bring a sense of normalcy back to the lives of these children. Wherever possible, AMURT works with parents and school directors to place Syrian children directly into local government schools, while also providing group or individual psychosocial therapy to help the children integrate into their new environment.
If school placements are unavailable, or if a child requires special preparation and psycho-social assistance before entering regular school life, then AMURT’s Child Friendly Space model is the best option.
Child Friendly Spaces
Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) are safe, nurturing and stimulating environments, which provide young refugees the chance to rediscover their innate innocence and positivity. Children usually spend their first three months in the CFS free from educational targets, benefiting from a structured routine full of stimulating activities. This initial period helps them re-enter society and prepare for learning.
After this initial period, the children start a basic numeracy and literacy program, which not only stimulates their desire for learning, but provides AMURT staff with a way to measure whether they are ready to join the public school system. Once a child is ready, the next step is either to join the Back to School program, or a longer intensive learning course, such as the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP), to quickly reach a suitable school entry level. In this way AMURT is creating a pathway to education.
The AMURT psycho-social team supports children in both the CFS and public schools. They conduct observations and assessments, often working with groups or individuals referred by a teacher.
Conditions most commonly observed in Syrian children include fear, trauma, ADHD / hyperactivity, loneliness, low self-esteem and aggressiveness.
Where needed, the psychologists may use cognitive, behavioural, and positive therapies as well as psychodrama and relaxation techniques; all aimed at helping children overcome psychological distress and restoring their normal healthy outlook and behaviour.
AMURT’s psycho-social team supports children in both the CFS and public schools. They conduct observations and assessments, often working with groups or individual children referred by a teacher. The conditions most commonly observed in Syrian children include fear, trauma, ADHD, loneliness, low self-esteem and aggressiveness.
The psychologists draw upon a variety of therapeutic approaches (cognitive, behavioral, and positive), as well as psychodrama and relaxation techniques; all aimed at helping children overcome psychological distress and restore their normal healthy outlook and behavior.
Every therapy session begins with psycho-education to help students better understand themselves. They discover that what they are going through is a normal and common response to intensely traumatic experiences.
When parents enroll their children, they are asked to volunteer at least once a week in the program, so now many mothers regularly support CFS activities, helping to build a sense of community.
Psychologists and outreach staff regularly work with parents on family issues. This brings many positive changes in parents’ relations with their children, and further enhances Syrian community involvement with the project.
Back to School
Innocent children are suffering most as a result of the Syrian war that began more than three years ago. Many have gone without education for a long period since the outbreak of fighting and the vast majority of refugees streaming into Lebanon remain outside the school system.
AMURT pays school fees and arranges transport for the most vulnerable refugees spread throughout the mountains. It is a vital help to get these youngsters back into school, where they can experience social inclusion, stimulation and a stable routine to help soothe the horrors of war and dislocation. AMURT also engages psycho-social specialists to assist their healing process and conducts teacher training to provide children a broader support network.
Education: Hope for the Future This young Syrian girl is seen receiving her first school uniform. The previous year, her parents were forced to choose which of their children to educate, as they couldn’t afford the expenses for all. Teachers recognised she was unusually gifted, and begged she be kept in school, helping as they could. She adapted quickly to the Lebanese curriculum and excelled in all her subjects. This year, due to AMURT’s intervention, she is fully registered in school along with all of her siblings. AMURT also provided them text books and school uniforms.
Help for Struggling Schools Many Lebanese schools were already struggling before the enormous wave of refugees. Now refugees fill 30% of the classes in some schools, which is becoming a considerable burden on resources. Upgrading essential equipment is one way AMURT helps schools cater for newly arrived Syrians.
The Joy of Belonging: Wearing a School Uniform Children affected by the trauma of war and being uprooted from their former life require quick re-establishment of an educational routine and psycho-social support to regain a normal development path.
German donor agency Kinder Not Hilfe has sponsored AMURT Lebanon’s Back to School and Child Friendly Space programs since October 2013.
To help vulnerable refugee families though the bitterly cold mountain winter, during 2013/14, AMURT distributed heating stoves and fuel on behalf of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Harsh Conditions This family is smaller than most, but endures harsh conditions all too common. Referred to AMURT by the local municipality, they lived in a 10m2 section of a concrete shed used for farm machinery. There was no window glass, just holes, and no running water. They collected water from a spring 200m away; bathing and toilet were outdoors. The mother, when already 9 months pregnant with her second child, slipped and fell in the icy cold: the baby did not survive. The father worked long hours for the farmer, earning under $5 a day.
Winter Stoves Weather forecasters predicted an especially cold winter for Lebanon’s mountains, where snowfall of 2 meters occurs in higher areas. Fuel-burning stoves are essential items, particularly for the many families living in poor housing or caring for a relative with a medical condition.
Motherless Children Two girls now in their grandmother’s care, who explains how their mother died in a bombing just one hour after giving birth to the younger child. She points to the eldest. “She kept asking for her mother for one month; but after that she came close to me.” Their father remained in hospital in Syria.
Food Distribution Refugees just arriving from Syria often lack even the most basic essentials. Between 2012-13 AMURT provided all who reached Chouf District with certain emergency assistance they required: ranging from food to blankets, mattresses, and special kits for hygiene or baby needs.
AMURT is the main international NGO based in upper Chouf and works with village coordinators, municipalities and local and international NGOs. In addition to international support personnel, AMURT Lebanon has a ready pool of dedicated local staff and volunteers: team members include Lebanese and displaced Syrians, who have a strong desire to ease the suffering of their country-folk. According to the UN, this is the worst refugee crisis for 20 years. More can and must be done. AMURT is uniquely positioned to make a difference. Your help will make that possible. Help expand services for Syrian refugees and refugee children: make a secure online donation now.