James*, Stephen and David look like any three brothers. They play Tumgbali – a game involving throwing small stones in the air and catching them – together, laughing. They like to play football together, they say, and going to school.
But these three boys, just 13, 12 and 8 years old, have already been through so much. Last year they fled South Sudan after their parents were killed in the ongoing conflict, and they arrived in Uganda alone.
It was a normal December day when the boys’ parents went to work spreading cassava seeds in the bush. The children could never have imagined that was the last time they would see them alive.
While they were gone, shots could be heard being fired near where their parents were working. A neighbour went to check on them, only to find their bodies shot dead. He took the boys in and looked after them, but when the killings intensified in January this year, he refused to flee.
James, only 13 years old, believed it was the best possible chance of survival for he and his brothers, so he decided they would go alone. They packed only one small bag each, and ran.
It’s impossible to imagine how hard that decision must have been for someone so young. To take responsibility for his brothers, while still just a child himself.
Thankfully, James and his brothers are now being cared for by a foster family, thanks to the help of World Vision. Another refugee family has taken them in – an unbelievable act of generosity.
And it’s generosity that characterises the response to this refugee crisis. From the refugee families themselves, to the hard work of NGO staff – many of whom have lived in tents in the camps for months on end – to the Ugandan government.
When they arrive across the border, each family is given vaccinations, food rations and a plot of land. They’re encouraged to settle, get jobs, plant food and send their kids to school, but they’re free to move on if they want to. There are no restrictions. Space has even been left in the settlements for refugees who get married and start a family, so they can have land of their own.
That generosity extends further still to host communities; we heard of Ugandans asking for more refugees even though it means sharing already scarce resources.
It’s the kind of radical kindness that offers hope for the future – and James can’t wait to make the world a better place; responding in kind to the generosity he’s been shown.
When he grows up, he wants to become President of South Sudan. With his smart shirt buttoned up all the way to his neck, it’s not hard to imagine.
He knows already what his first law will be: “I will tell everyone to cooperate with each other,” he says. “All people come here because of war. I want there to be no war when I become President.”
And his brothers? They’ll help him in his new role, James says. “It feels good for us to be together.”
Support children like James*, Stephen and David, who deserve the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to the South Sudan crisis relief.
Simple things like giving children a safe place to run around and express themselves makes a huge amount of difference to refugees living far from home. From the exhilaration of scoring a goal and working as a team, to the comfort of finding emotional support, children and staff share the ways they’re benefitting from the football pitches we’ve built in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp…
13-year-old Shaima (centre) loves coming to the pitches to play football – something she’d never done until she came to Jordan.
“I like coming to the football pitches to meet friends. I like to play football and I come here every day, I’ll even be back in the evening later to play again!” she says.
It’s currently school holidays in Azraq. There is a long break from football from about 12pm to 4pm during the heat of the day, but then football sessions resume in the cooler evening. “I encourage the other girls to play football as it keeps us active.”
“I used to play for a famous football team in Syria called Al-Karamah. We got to the semi-finals in the Asian champions league in 2006,” says Akram. He has been in Jordan for two and a half years, coaching the boys’ teams and the older youth team.
“I was a kid once and I had football coaches and they were my idols. Now I have some experience and I can be a good example for these boys.”
“The best thing about being a coach is putting a smile on the children’s faces. This generation has been deprived of so many things. It’s a bit of compensation for them, to give them hope. The boys release their energy when they play football that could otherwise lead to aggression.”
“It’s a beautiful thing that there are Syrian refugees in the Olympics. It’s good that people still have determination to compete. When they eventually go back to Syria, the athletes will take those achievements back to Syria with them.”
11-year-old Yaman is from Damascus, Syria and has been in Azraq refugee camp for almost two years. Ever since the football pitches opened for business last November, they and Yaman have been inseperable.
“I’ve made a lot of friends playing football at the pitches. I love all my friends. My best friend is Yehia, he plays in another team.”
World Vision distributes juice and bars made from dates to children attending formal schools in Azraq camp, and they give children like Yaman energy to play football and to enjoy themselves.
“We’ve memorized the food pyramid. Eating good food is important. I know carrots strengthen your eyesight!”
Of Syrian refugees competing in the Olympics, Yaman says – “If they win gold we will be very proud. They are heroes and we are very proud of them.”
Raja is from Dar’a, Syria and has a two-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. She’s been living in Azraq camp for two years but has been a football coach in the camp for just two months.
“It’s beautiful for the girls to play football. I used to enjoy playing football back in Syria, and liked it more than any other game as a girl.”
“I enjoy teaching the girls. I feel like they are my children. The girls come and play and release their energy. Some girls come to the pitches feeling sad and release their energy and feel better”
For Raja, the football pitches not only bring children together, but also offer them a place of emotional support.
“The girls talk to me about their problems, they open up to me. I cry with them sometimes.”
12-year-old Omar originally came to Azraq from Damascus, Syria.
“It makes me happy that there is a place to play football in the camp and I’ve been playing on the pitches since they opened. I feel happy when I score a goal but I enjoy playing football and spending time here, even if we don’t win.”
As the crisis in Syria continues, an important part of our ongoing response is to support refugees who have sought safety in the surrounding region. In addition creating facilities at Azraq refugee camp, we’ve been providing remedial education for children, distributing food and water vouchers and running child friendly spaces to ensure vulnerable children get the support they need.
Support these children from Azraq, who deserve the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child or donate to the Syria crisis relief.
By Alison Schafer
Senior Programme Advisor
Mental Health & Psychosocial Support
World Vision International
The Syria conflict has been raging for over six years. In times of war, children are among the most vulnerable groups. Even though most will survive the conflict physically, the immediate and long-term well-being of children remains a serious concern for humanitarian organisations, like World Vision.
Conflict situations commonly expose children to extremely stressful and terrifying events. World Vision has heard from children who have escaped Syria, speak about both witnessing and being victims of violence; losing parents and loved ones; and being displaced.
Children also tell us about the daily challenges they face living with those who love them, who are themselves dealing with personal experiences of war and displacement and unable to be as supportive or loving as they once were. These ongoing stresses can have strong and lasting effects on children’s socio-emotional well-being and their growing brains.
And a vast number of children have been impacted by this crisis: more than four million children in need in Syria, and more than one million child refugees now living in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.
Research suggests that the physical consequences of conflict on a child’s brain development can have adverse and marked consequences – with the potential for permanent changes to the brain’s architecture. Without adequate intervention and the presence of protective and caring relationships, Syria’s war could have a lasting impact on children’s learning abilities, memory, social interactions, stress and fear responses, and the ability to control emotions. The experiences of Syria’s war-affected children could lead to a generation of children experiencing long-term mental health, social and economic problems.
“My grandchildren have never had a beautiful day in their lives,” says the grandmother of Fatima, 4. “The older girls barely talk, and when other children cry, they curl up with their hands to their ears and rock.” Photo by Jon Warren
Click here for more information on how to help these children cope with stress.
It is a common misconception that young children do not understand stressful or violent events and so are not as affected as adults. But their young minds process much more than is often credited. World Vision has often observed this in children affected by crises: their developmental milestones can be delayed, their capacity for higher education attainment is jeopordised and their behaviour, emotional attachments and social environments are also impacted. Most often, crises induce severe and chronic stress among children.
Research shows that “toxic stress” – when the stress response system is activated over a prolonged period without the buffering presence of protective and caring relationships – leads to elevated levels of the cortisol stress hormones in the brain. This impacts the brain’s hippocampus and leads to children having learning difficulties, problems with short-term memory and difficulty controlling emotions.
Humanitarian organisations often see children exhibiting limited concentration, behavioural and emotional self-control in the remedial, recreation or education programmes they provide for children and adolescents.
During early childhood, the neural circuits of a child’s brain for responding to stress are particularly vulnerable to prolonged and elevated cortisol levels. This can have permanent effects on a person’s ability to regulate stress and fear responses later in life and means they are more likely to develop anxiety, depression and a range of other mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. The long-term impacts aren’t limited to the brain. Research also shows a strong correlation between exposure to adverse childhood experiences and higher rates of heart, liver and lung disease in adulthood.
This evidence highlights the need for humanitarian agencies to go beyond delivering food, water and shelter and ensuring a child’s physical safety. Displaced children living in refugee camps, or in isolation from host communities, commonly face boredom, social exclusion and lack of stimulating activities or opportunities for play. On the surface, this may seem a minor concern. However, a lack of adequate stimulation can also be linked to significant neurological shifts in the developing brain.
In childhood, only the neurons and neural pathways that get used are strengthened in the brain, whereas those that are not used die out. The brain is like a muscle. It requires frequent repetitive use and stimulation – through environmental cues, relationships with family, social engagement and education. Neglect and under-stimulation of children affected by conflict can lead to severe impairments in the cognitive, physical and psychosocial development of the child, creating a lasting legacy of war.
This can lead to emotional, cognitive, and behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression, emotional and interpersonal difficulties, and significant learning difficulties.
World Vision prioritises setting up Child Friendly Spaces – safe places where children can play, learn, make friends, develop routines and be monitored for behavioural and emotional issues. The spaces are up and running in Lebanon and are hosting Syrian children.
Our research on Child Friendly Spaces for refugee children living in Ethiopia and Uganda found children participating in such programmes showed more sustained and consistent mental, social and emotional well-being than those refugee children who did not have such opportunities. The research highlights the importance of these spaces in minimizing long-term damage for children.
Children will then only have to deal with tolerable levels of stress – levels that don’t lead to lasting effects on the developing brain.
World Vision is responding to the Syria crisis. In addition to water, health and cash programmes, World Vision aims to scale up its children’s programming. In Lebanon and Jordan we are working to establish or delivering: child and adolescent friendly spaces for recreation and psychosocial support, remedial education initiatives, and maternal and child health programmes that can promote children’s support with their caregivers.
It takes a world to end violence against children! Click here to learn more about the fears and dreams of the Syrian children.
April 7 marks World Health Day. This year, the focus issue is depression, an illness characterised by persistent sadness which affects a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks or maintain healthy relationships. Many depressed people suffer feelings like worthlessness and guilt. In the most severe cases, depression can lead to self-harm and suicide.
Worst of all, depression can happen to anyone, including children.
Emergency situations can be a major source of mental health issues. The WHO estimates that 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety during humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflicts. For children, the trauma of being displaced and witnessing terrible things can leave scars that last into adulthood.
Whenever World Vision responds to an emergency, we are ready with food, water and other essentials. But we also recognise that fulfilling a child’s physical needs isn’t the end all be all; it is not enough for a child to be well-fed if they are suffering mentally and emotionally.
That is why we are always ready to give these children a place to heal.
Escaping the trauma of war
A World Vision staff member chats with a boy who was displaced by conflict near Mosul, Iraq.
During the recent military operations in Mosul, Iraq, many fleeing children arrived at relief camps petrified, struggling to express themselves, and in some cases too terrified to speak. Years of brutal occupation and terrible violence had taken a toll on their mental health.
“Many children have been stuck in their homes while bombings, sniper fire, or chaos ruled around them. Others have witnessed the death of family members,” said Aaron Moore, World Vision’s programs manager in northern Iraq. “Our Child-Friendly Spaces provide a safe place for children to come to terms with the violence they’ve seen and just take time to play as children again,”
One little boy had seen his 15-year-old brother killed when they fled. When he came under World Vision’s care, he was too terrified to even speak.
“Thankfully, with the support of a trained World Vision psychologist, he was able to say his name by the end of the day. However, this is just the beginning of what could be years of specialist support, as children begin to rebuild their lives and regain a sense of normality.”
Many children don’t want to play when they first come to the camps. “However, after a few days at the Child-Friendly Space with our staff, they’re slowly beginning to regain confidence and a sense of hope for the future,” says Aaron.
One important coping mechanism for traumatised children is art.
Faras, 11, remembers happier days in Syria. Now the happiest thing in his life is coming to the Child-Friendly Space, so he draws the bus he rides.
At a Child-Friendly Space in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Syrian refugee children use art to express a wide range of feelings. When Faras, 11, draws a picture of his past in Syria, he sketches an idyllic landscape with a smiling sun, a rushing river, and a green field where he and his brother once looked after sheep. Habib, 9, uses a black crayon to outline a helicopter dropping bombs.
That’s appropriate, says Bassima, the supervisor, who is also a Syrian refugee. “We have a past that is both beautiful and ugly.”
Habib, 9, recalls a helicopter dropping bombs near his home. “The house is okay. The bombs exploded the neighbours’ house. I saw it; many were killed,”
Animators, the adults who lead activities for different age groups of refugee children, don’t ask them about their painful experiences and losses.
“We provide a peaceful place for them to feel their freedom. It’s a safe place for them to experience feelings and memories,” says Bassima.
Even as they help children come to terms with the past, the staff members attending to the children are also concerned for their present and future. Huda, an animator, says “Every day there is something sad [the children hear] about relatives in Syria. They need support not to be overwhelmed by sadness.”
Ahmad, a classroom animator for a group of 10- to 12-year-olds, echoes this sentiment as he pantomimes raising an umbrella in a circle of 12 boys and girls. As they mimic his motions, he calls the Child-Friendly Space an “umbrella of comfort and safety over your head.” Indeed, this ‘umbrella’ may be the only thing stopping these children from being washed away by a flood of fear, anxiety and depression.
As for what lies ahead, “The future is very important to us, the future for these children,” says Huda. “If we create this peaceful place for them, we’ve done what we can do.” Indeed, for children of conflict, a little peace may be all they need.
If you would like to support Child-Friendly Spaces (and physical relief) for children in humanitarian emergencies, please make a contribution to our Emergency Relief Fund
The stories and pictures in this post were adapted from articles featured on the World Vision US website.
The Syria civil war, now in its sixth year, is “a slaughterhouse, a complete meltdown of humanity, the apex of horror,” U.N. emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the U.N. Security Council Jan. 26. The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than 11 million from their homes. In many cases, children caught up in this crisis have fared the worst, losing parents or friends to the violence, suffering physical and psychological trauma, or falling years behind in school.
Here is a little bit about the conflict, its effect on families, and how World Vision is helping them.
Syrian refugee crisis explained: Fast facts
– 13.5 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance due to a violent civil war that began in 2011.
– 4.9 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria; half of those affected are children.
– Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. View these photos to see life through
the eyes of Syrian refugee children.
– Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; slightly more than 10 percent of the refugees have fled to Europe.
– Peace negotiations continue despite a fraying and piecemeal ceasefire.
Children under siege in Aleppo
“The children of Syria have experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” says Dr. Christine Latif, World Vision’s response manager for Turkey and northern Syria.
World Vision staff say the situation in Aleppo city is the most dire they have ever seen it. Health supplies and clean water are urgently needed. Aid hasn’t reached the city since mid-July.
“Civilians have been continually in harm’s way, caught in the cross-fire and changing front lines. Civilian infrastructure has been targeted, leading to mass civilian casualties, including women and children,” says Angela Huddleston, program manager for the World Vision’s Syria response.
World Vision is helping about 100,000 people fleeing recent violence in Aleppo with:
– Clean water and sanitation services
– Primary and mobile health clinic support
– Women and young child centers
– Support for a women and children’s hospital with equipment and supplies
Help children and families fleeing violence in Syria. Donate Now
Why are Syrians leaving their homes?
– Violence: Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, as many as 386,000 people have been killed, including nearly 14,000 children, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war has become more deadly since foreign powers joined the conflict.
– Collapsed infrastructure: Within Syria, 95 percent of people lack adequate healthcare, 70 percent lack regular access to clean water. Half the children are out of school. The economy is shattered and four-fifths of the population lives in poverty.
– Children in danger and distress: Syrian children — the nation’s hope for a better future — have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling, and witnessed unspeakable violence and brutality. Warring parties forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields, and in support roles, according to the U.S. State Department.
Most refugees from Syria are still in the region. They’ve fled violence and sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Around 10% are taking the dangerous journey to Europe.
How does the war in Syria affect children?
Read about how the war is affecting Syria’s children in a special report from World Vision magazine, “Syria Crisis and the Scars of War.”
– Children are susceptible to malnutrition and diseases brought on by poor sanitation, including diarrheal diseases like cholera. Cold weather increases the risk of pneumonia and
other respiratory infections.
– Many refugee children have to work to support their families. Often they labor in dangerous or demeaning circumstances for little pay.
– Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in unfamiliar and overcrowded conditions. Without adequate income to support their families and fearful of their
daughters being molested, parents — especially single mothers — may opt to arrange marriage for girls, some as young as 13.
– Between 2 million and 3 million Syrian children are not attending school. The U.N. children’s agency says the war reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.
What are the refugees’ greatest needs?
– Syrians fleeing conflict need all the basics to sustain their lives: food, clothing, health assistance, shelter, and household and hygiene items.
– They need reliable supplies of clean water, as well as sanitation facilities.
– Children need a safe environment and a chance to play and go to school.
– Adults need employment options in case of long-term displacement.
– Prayer: Learn how you can pray for Syrian refugees. Join with others as we pray for refugees.
– Compassion: Read this article in Christianity Today by World Vision President Rich Stearns about treating refugees with the compassion of Christ.
How is World Vision helping refugees and others affected by the Syrian refugee crisis?
Since the Syria crisis began in 2011, World Vision has helped more than 2 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Learn more about how World Vision responds to emergencies with short-term relief and long-term recovery.
– Syria: Food aid, health assistance, hygiene support, baby care kits, water and sanitation, shelter repair kits, and winterization supplies.
– Iraq: Food aid, health services, water and sanitation, baby kits, stoves and other winter supplies; for children: education and recreation, programming for life skills, peace building, and resilience.
– Jordan and Lebanon: Personal and household supplies, clean water and sanitation, education and recreation, Child-Friendly Spaces and child protection training for adults, winter kits, and psychosocial support for children.
Reporting from Brian Jonson and Patricia Mouamar, World Vision communications staff in Lebanon and Jordan, and Chris Huber, Kathryn Reid, and Denise C. Koenig from World Vision U.S.
My name is Lydia and I am responsible to initiate and oversee World Vision Malaysia (WVM) community development programmes (CDPs) in Sabah, provide direction for the growth of CDPs in Malaysia, capacity building of local staff, engage with stakeholders and explore partnering opportunities, collaborate with like-minded organisations and am one of the spokespersons for the media.
Before embarking on implementing any transformational community development programme with an aim towards a community’ self-sustainability, relationships and trust must be built with the community. The initial phase in starting in Tulid CDP starting from October 2011 was tough – no one in the area has heard of World Vision, WVM had no past track record in Sabah, the communities had limited engagement with NGOs. In one of the villages, some leaders actually thought I was from a new political party when they saw my orange World Vision shirt.
A lot of hard work and sacrifice was made, achievements were slow to come by (for example, it took one whole year of generally working alone in Sabah throughout 2012, before we had the first two Sabahan co-workers, and later on more Sabahan staff as field facilitators), plans can be suddenly thwarted by unexpected, unannounced events (such as the 13th General Elections and the Sulu crisis in 2013 when we planned to facilitate a series of participatory programme design workshops in several clusters of villages).
Personal life is usually at the backburner as a high degree of flexibility is needed to shuttle between West and East Malaysia to accommodate stakeholders’ timing. In spite of having the ‘best laid plans’, community development work in Sabah inevitably takes priority over other commitments, resulting in feelings of guilt from bailing on commitments to my husband, family and friends, or simply not committing to events and gatherings for fear causing disappointment later. Nevertheless, I am grateful that they continue to be supportive and I hope to do better in the area of being a good wife, daughter and friend.
I am touched by the care and hospitability of the community in Sabah and also a partner NGO, Good Shepherd Services when I first started working in Sabah. They took me in as one of them, allowed me to join them in their day-to-day activities even though I had zero farming knowledge – unable to chop trees and slow in moving tree trunks to clear lands for planting, slow in harvesting paddy and unable to distinguish edible and non-edible wild vegetables.
During the early, relationship-building period I got to know the community better. Through spending more time with the community, they opened up when they share their thoughts. Mothers, fathers and youths share their dreams and struggles. People really desire to do something to improve their condition, but lack the opportunities.
Successes are – when you are able to witness for yourself that children have shown increased confidence and motivation to learn, when field staff increase in their capacity, confidence and commitment, when a community showed initiative, motivation and ownership in setting set up their own pre-school in their village for their children’s well-being. Parents are willing to sacrifice for their children’s future. After seeing improvement in their children, parents are motivated to be good role models, even to the extent of changing their old habits for the sake of their children.
Last year, we responded to the floods in Kelantan. It was WVM’s first local disaster response. I was responsible for the relief and rehabilitation work among the orang asli communities in Gua Musang. It was a steep learning curve, I was further stretched to juggle a precious resource, i.e. time, in working in three locations – Sabah, Kelantan and Selangor.
The amazing grace of God, even though I do not have the ability to teleport or to be omnipresent (my occasional wishful thinking and outrageous daydream), God had protected me from major physical injury caused by accidents, and I have been safe from any serious harm that may have happened to a female staying alone in a village(s).
Throughout my time in World Vision Malaysia, I grew in my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is in times of struggle, uncertainty and knowing you are not able to do things with your own strength that leads you to a deeper dependence on God. When I was nearing the brink of burn-out after expending physical and mental energy throughout two months without a break, He brought forth renewal, sustained me from simply giving up and reminded me that He is my source of strength and hope.
He has also provided help in the form of people – people who are really committed to serve by availing themselves to be full time staff. I am very grateful for everyone I work with, for without such committed people giving their lives to do this work, we would not have gone very far.
What keeps me motivated? Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” These words drive me to focus and do my best in every circumstance, that ultimately what I do will be pleasing to God.
Lydia Lee currently serves in World Vision Malaysia under the Malaysian Programmes team as a Manager.
More than 5 years ago, I joined World Vision Malaysia. I was excited to be part of this organisation that from my understanding was committed to helping the poor. Little did I know that World Vision’s work carried such depth and breadth worldwide. I am proud to be part of this dynamic community that is dedicated in serving the poor, even though most of us within the Malaysian office work indirectly by working hard to fundraise for our programmes in the field. Over the years I’ve come to better appreciate how the different parts of World Vision help contribute in their own unique ways for the greater good. It is also within this sphere that I’ve been able to grow professionally, socially and spiritually. Here I’d like to share some highlights from the past 5 years that has made it memorable being with the World Vision family.
My various roles in the Programmes department have provided me the opportunity to learn about both sustainable community development and emergency responses. When I first started, one of my first few responsibilities was to monitor the progress of child sponsorship programmes in a few countries. From there I learned about the holistic approach that World Vision uses to work alongside the poor, respecting their voices especially children’s and desiring for genuine transformation in the lives of those World Vision works with. I had the opportunity to visit some of our programmes to which I was able to witness the enthusiasm of communities wanting to improve their lives; discover the passion of committed field staff that have dedicated their lives to the poor; and hoped alongside children that believed that they could have a better future.
As a child sponsor, I’m glad to have the opportunity to journey with my sponsored children and their communities in this process of transformation. Having the privilege of meeting them has continued my desire to see them grow well and be hopeful for the community’s growth in the upcoming years. The connection that I have with a child in a programme allowed my work on community development to come alive, knowing that there are precious lives that really matter behind a report filled with words.
As I moved on to another role that coordinated fundraising efforts for disaster relief, I had opportunities to be deployed to be part of World Vision’s Syrian Crisis Response in the Middle East. There I served as a Programmes Officer, tasked to write grant proposals and reports to donors to fundraise for the needs of the affected community. During both deployments, I worked with international and national colleagues of various backgrounds who came together to use their skills, knowledge and passion to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected. In World Vision, it is amazing that during a time of adversity, a group of people with such diversity can come together to help others from diverse backgrounds.
Only by being part of an emergency response team, working closely with operational staff did I realise the complexity of an emergency response especially for a crisis such as Syria’s. We faced unprecedented challenges and often had to think outside of the box but still meet the needs of the affected children and community, as this was not your average or typical emergency response. This experience brought me one step closer to the field and although I did not work directly with those affected, I was able to see how my desk contribution could still bring some form of relief to those who needed them.
Looking back, it is hard to believe how swiftly five years has passed. This was made easy as I work with a great bunch of people. I have the privilege of working alongside fellow colleagues here and in other World Vision offices that are dedicated to the work at World Vision and have grown together with many professionally and spiritually. Our working relationship and focused goal of helping others has created a bond of friendship that I continue to treasure. This passion and commitment together with fellow colleagues help make the work more fulfilling and meaningful. I hope to continue to contribute in my own ways with my fellow colleagues on the work that World Vision does. And hope many will also see the small contributions we make in the lives of those we work with.
Jessica Choong currently serves in World Vision Malaysia under the Malaysian Programmes team as Programmes Coordinator.
In July 2016, World Vision reached over 400,000 people with clean water, emergency toilets and waste disposal services in northern Syria.
Ahmad Nassan is a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Field Engineer with World Vision in Syria.
‘We can see the impact the project has for the people, the provision of clean water, installing toilets and water tanks, we can see how satisfied they are and how happy these activities are making them. It is all based on evidence and need, ensuring that we can provide the services long-term. We do this with the hope that people can go back to their homes, to a rehabilitated community.’
In November 2015, coaches from the English Premier League travelled to Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan to train thirty-six people from several humanitarian agencies, as well as a number of Syrian refugee volunteers, in how to coach football. The coaches are now using what they learnt on a regular basis to teach Syrian children football skills. Playing sport in the camp gives children the opportunity to stay active, have fun and make friends.
26-year old Raja is from Dar’a, Syria. She has a 2-year old daughter and a 3-year old son and has lived in Azraq refugee camp for two years. She has been a football coach in the camp for about two months and shares her thoughts on girls given the opportunity to play football.
I find it extremely beautiful that the girls are given a chance to play football! I used to enjoy playing football back in Syria. I liked football more than any other game as a girl. Here I enjoy teaching the girls. I feel like they are my children.
The girls come and play and release their energy. Some girls come to the multi-purpose sports pitch feeling sad and release their energy and feel better. The girls talk to me about their problems, they open up to me. I sometimes cry with them.
I will talk to parents who don’t want their girls to play and explain the importance of playing. I tell them that people and strangers can’t see into the girls’ pitch and sometimes after I talk to them they send their girls to play football. Many families in the camp are very conservative so it’s important for them that the girls have privacy when they play.