Haya Al Tarshah, 21, a resident of Homs, interrupted her classes in French Literature to volunteer with the NGO Shabab Al Khair, a UNICEF partner. The local group is managing the Andalous facility, where men who were recently evacuated from the Old City of Homs are being held. This is her first person account:
From day one, when the evacuees arrived here from the Old City, I decided to offer my services to do my bit for those who are staying at the centre.
My day begins at 8am with a visit to Room 106 where a family of four girls, their father and grandfather are living.
Nine months ago the girls’ mother was killed by mortar fire along with their one-year-old brother. Their father Abu Hani, 45, a vegetable seller, was seriously injured in the incident. He now walks on crutches and can’t look after the children properly, which is why I have been sent to help.
Fariha, Ala, Baraha, and Janah are all so adorable. They play with each other and even within the grim reality of a makeshift shelter they keep busy with creative activities. Fariha, 13, is a prodigious writer, while her younger siblings Ala, 9, and Baraha, 7, immerse themselves in drawing pretty girls and landscapes.
Janah, 3, the youngest of the children, is a prankster, and needs most of my attention. I try to make sure the girls get cleaned up each morning and have their breakfast on time.
Satisfied the four girls are set for the day, I race to my next assignment which is to go to other rooms to make a note of what other families need, whether it’s food, clothes or other items.
By noon it’s time to work with other volunteers to prepare lunch. This is coordinated with a nearby IDP shelter that has a kitchen, which Sahab Al Khair also manages.
Afterwards, I get back to meeting some of the smaller children to play with them and give them baths. Soon, it’s dusk and time to rally our energies for cooking and the distribution of dinner. It’s a full day and before I know it, it’s almost 9 p.m. Mum is anxious to see me back. It’s time to head home.
UNICEF is supporting Shabab Al Khair with training for staff members on child protection in emergencies, family tracing and reunification.