RAMTHA — An iftar, held on Thursday, concluded a two-and-a-half-month-long session of psychosocial activities organised by Terre des Hommes (TDH) to support Syrian children’s integration in the Kingdom’s northern region.
Organised in Mafraq, Irbid and Ramtha — where the majority of Syrian refugees reside — the project relied on psychosocial activities to offer help and protection for over 2,000 children through activities such as painting, storytelling and role play but also by reaching out to the whole community.
“We have psychologists helping parents express their difficulties and identify issues among their children, and we also have social workers who assess the families’ situations and contact partnering NGOs to help them,” Nahed Khlout, TDH field coordinator for the north, told The Jordan Times on Thursday.
Held in Shajara, a village located near the city of Ramtha, some 90km north of Amman, the iftar gathered 250 Syrian and Jordanian children, parents, representatives of TDH and the local partner, the Shajara association.
Most of the Syrian participants came from the city of Daraa, which together with Ramtha forms a region commonly called “Sahel Houran” or the Houran Plains, a proximity that led to numerous intracommunity marriages even before the Syrian conflict started and facilitated Syrian children’s integration compared to other regions in the Kingdom.
“These projects are crucial to help the Syrian children deal with the violence they have left behind and also strengthen the ties between Jordanian and Syrian children by offering a chance for more exchange and interaction,” noted Ali Shboul, president of the Shajara association.
The association started in 1972 with a kindergarten and later developed into a vocational training centre to finally put all focus on education by managing a school.
“The psychosocial projects have really brought change in the children’s lives and behaviours,” Shboul said.
“When they started, they were talking about the violence... and it was reflected in their drawings, but now, 70 per cent of the children have started talking about positive things like their future, their friends and they are better integrated with Jordanian children,” he added.
Both the Syrian and Jordanian children participating in the project shared common difficult socio-economic backgrounds and came from low-income families, according to Ibrahim Youssef, a Syrian who is TDH community mobilisation manager.
Fifteen-year-old Amjad, a Shajara resident, and his friend Muhannad, 14, who came from Daraa 10 months ago, go to the same school and participated together in the TDH project.
They said they benefited greatly from the sessions.
“I learned a lot of things during this project, mainly how I should respect others, let them express their feelings, ideas and emotions,” Amjad said.
Muhannad agreed, adding that it has also helped him deal with his traumatic experience in Syria.
“I think it has helped me become more integrated because now I can handle the fact that I had to leave Syria, and I have also learnt how to express happiness; I learned to feel joy again,” he said.
TDH is a Swiss NGO working on protecting children’s rights. It first started working in Jordan in 2008 to support Iraqi refugees, according to the organisers.
Their psychosocial activities, initially launched in 2012, will enter their third phase in the northern district next month and provide support for around 1,000 children.