Amira, 10, was hit by shrapnel from a nearby explosion and suffered severe burns all over her body. She received immediate treatment for this when she arrived at Za'atari refugee camp, as she could not receive proper treatment inside Syria. Photo credit: Save the Children 2013.

Amira, 10, was hit by shrapnel from a nearby explosion and suffered severe burns all over her body. She received immediate treatment for this when she arrived at Za'atari refugee camp, as she could not receive proper treatment inside Syria. Photo credit: Save the Children 2013.

Turning Scars Into Smiles

Child-Friendly Spaces Let Children Be Children

The deadly bombs in Syria spare no one. Not even 10-year old girls. Amira, a beautiful young girl was trying to escape the violence in Syria when she was hit by shrapnel from a nearby explosion. Her small body suffered burns all over, including her face. Due to the violence and deteriorating conditions in the hospitals, her mother was unable to get her the care she desperately needed. Finally, her family managed to cross the border and reach the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. There, she received immediate treatment by healthcare providers. But still, Amira had lost some of her hair and her wounds would bleed under the only clothes she owned. 

But beyond the physical wounds on her face and body – Amira was mentally scarred and retreated from the world.

Amira’s mother shared, “She refused to leave the tent and on rare occasions when she did, she came back crying because children called her names and did not play with her. My heart broke seeing my daughter in such a condition.”

Hearing about Save the Children’s child-friendly space (CFS) established in the camp, Amira’s mother encouraged her to participate. The CFSs provide quality educational and protection services to assist the healing process of children from physical and emotional harm and directly promoting their wellbeing.

“It was near our tent and we heard children singing and playing,” said Amira’s mother. “One employee approached Amira and invited her to spend time with other children. But I knew she would be uncomfortable around them because of the way she looked.”

That employee was Rowaida, Save the Children’s child protection coordinator. “Initially, she stayed in one corner of the room, not speaking or playing with anyone,” Rowaida said. “I noticed disgusted looks on children’s faces when they looked at her. I counseled Amira every day and encouraged her to come into the tent and play with other children. She was very defensive when children approached her. I managed to get her new clothes and asked her mother to clean and bandage her wounds before coming to the CFS.”

Over several months, Rowaida and other members of the Save the Children team gently coaxed Amira into participating in activities at the CFS. Individual activities like reading and drawing to help her deal with fear and trauma, as well as board games and songs to help build her confidence and help her make friends.

“I bought my daughter a jacket from the camp,” said Amira’s mother. “As soon as she saw it, she jumped up and down and ran to the CFS to show it to Rowaida. That was the moment I knew that my daughter had recovered.”

Eventually, Amira grew comfortable going to play at the CFS. Then she began accompanying her siblings to the mosque, and finally expressed interest in being enrolled at the formal school in the camp.

“I was shy because the other children laughed at me,” Amira recalls. “Now my friends’ names are Rawan, Nour, Aisha, Saba and Yasmine. I want to start going to school with them.”

Save the Children continues to reach thousands of refugee children in our child friendly spaces at refugee camps throughout the region.

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