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"Happy Child": a haven of peace for thousands of children in Syria

5.7 million: this is the number of children affected by the conflict that has ravaged Syria since 2011. From 2016 and for three years, the Belgian team of SOS Children's Villages has invested heavily in strengthening the emergency aid program developed by the NGO in Tartous. It was able to rely on the support of the “Happy Child” project from Kiwanis from 2017 onward to provide thousands of children with shelter away from violence. Back on the results of this collaboration and future challenges.

Allow children to just be children

SOS Children's Villages has implemented various projects for vulnerable children in Tartous. A dedicated day care center has been developed for them: "Children could take part in games and psychosocial assistance workshops in the company of educators and psychologists entirely devoted to their well-being," explains Stijn. Raes, project coordinator.

The goal? Help the youngest to express their emotions, gain self-confidence and regain the carefree childhood for a few hours each day. A total of 3,500 children have found a safe and welcoming place to flourish.

3,500 children rediscovered the joys of childhood in a space specially dedicated to them.

A roof for 150 single children

In addition, SOS Children's Villages has created a temporary reception center for single and homeless children. "Many of them have lost track of their families while fleeing conflict and have found themselves in an extremely fragile situation," says Stijn Raes. We provided 150 children with a safe place where they felt safe, protected from the dangers of the street. " At the same time, the SOS teams were looking for families to allow their reunification. When the relatives of the young people were in a too vulnerable situation to receive them, the NGO supported them through its family strengthening program.

Making families stronger

61 families have worked intensively with SOS employees to improve their situation. "Development of an income-generating activity, help with the management of school costs, support in administrative procedures ...: every aspect has been taken into account so that families are strong enough to take care of their children", details the coordinator. Leila * is one of the participants in this program. After the death of her husband, this mother had to take care of her children alone. Fortunately, she found help from the NGO. Two of her children were temporarily taken into care in the temporary reception center at Tartous. During this period, Leila was able to develop her professional activity. She bought a cow and now lives on the sale of milk and livestock. This allows her to take good care of his family.

Thanks to the family strengthening program, Leila and her children now have a sustainable source of income.

New challenges for the future

The emergency program in Tartous has recently come to an end and the results are very positive. “132 of the 150 children in our temporary reception center have been reunited with their families or found a new home with an SOS family", reports Stijn Raes.

These four children and their parents were reunited with the help of the temporary reception center at Tartous.

However, for 18 children, the situation in the family of origin is not yet stable enough to allow their return. SOS Children's Villages will therefore continue to take care of them in 2020 until reunification or another reception solution is possible. In the meantime, they will be accommodated in three SOS homes. The NGO will then focus its efforts in the Damascus region with new projects. "Institutional funds are difficult to find in order to continue operating in Syria. This is why the support of donors like Kiwanis is essential, concludes Stijn Raes. Even if our emergency program in Tartous were to end, the needs in the country are still numerous. SOS Children's Villages International is looking for funds to develop its actions and allow more and more children affected by war to find a safe home! "
* Nickname intended to protect the privacy of the mother and her family.