Elias, 7, is overcoming war trauma playing at ICMC’s Child Friendly Space

15 January is the Catholic Church's World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme which Pope Francis selected for this year's celebration is "Child migrants, the vulnerable and the voiceless": follow the hashtag #ICMCforChildren on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram and learn more about everything ICMC does to protect and assist vulnerable children on the move.

 

 

Elias, a 7-year-old boy attending ICMC's Protection Center in Mafraq, proudly shows his arabic workbook. Elias, a 7-year-old boy attending ICMC's Protection Center in Mafraq, proudly shows his Arabic language workbook. Photo: ICMC / Nicola Banks

Mafraq, 13 January 2017 - Elias* is just one of the many kids whose childhood has been devastated by the ongoing conflict in Syria. He is 7 years old and lives with his family in Mafraq, Jordan, an urban area densely populated by refugees, where they arrived in 2014 after fleeing the horrors ravaging his hometown, Homs.

When the ICMC staff first met Elias, he was showing clear signs of psychological trauma, having witnessed war-related distressing events since a very young age. He would speak of bombing, soldiers patrolling the streets, constant shelling, and shooting. Because he seemed so distraught, the ICMC staff recommended Elias joins other kids playing in the Child-Friendly Space at ICMC’s local Protection Center, hoping this would help ease his tensions.

A little ways down the road, Elias has become very fond of the Child-Friendly Space’s activities; his favorite game, he says, is ‘Musical Chairs’. “I have made lots of friends and we play games and have fun,” Elias explained. “I like the social workers! They helped me believe in myself.”

Aside from games and toys, Elias seems to also love learning. When asked about his favorite subject, he proudly showed his English and Arabic exercise books. “I want to learn English and Arabic in school so that I can become a doctor and help people as they helped me,” Elias admitted full of enthusiasm.

According to a recent report of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, 3.7 million Syrian children are out of school. ICMC strives to fill this gap by offering children a safe environment to play, interact with kids their age, learn and express themselves – while their parents take part in the Center’s activities without worrying about finding alternative childcare.

Learning through play is indeed a form of psychological support, which should allow Elias and other children like him to better deal with post-conflict trauma. In addition, ICMC helps the parents by disseminating information on local education services and distributes school bags, notebooks, and stationery to encourage the children’s school attendance.

* The name was changed to protect the privacy of the child.

 

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