ZA’ATARI, Jordan – On a one day visit with UNICEF to Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan, Turkish actress Tuba Büyüküstün, famed for her role as Lamees, met with Syrian girls who have fled the nearly 4-year old war in their country.
At one of three UNICEF run schools in the camp, Büyüküstün joined an art class and chatted with 14-year old Omaima from Dera’a, southern Syria. Omaima told her that despite the challenges of living in Za’atari she is determined to complete her studies and become a doctor.
“I was amazed by the strength and character of these girls. The majority have been living as refugees for more than 2 years yet their hopes and dreams for the future are just as strong now,” said Büyüküstün.
There are some 15,000 Syrian children who attend the three schools in Za’atari. A further 10,000 of school going age are out of the formal education system. UNICEF Jordan is working with partners to scale up opportunities for informal learning and life skills for these vulnerable children inside Za’atari and those living across the country.
Following her school visit, Büyüküstün spent time at an Infant and Young Child Feeding Center (IYCF) run with Save the Children Jordan where new mothers receive breastfeeding support and advice on nutrition issues. Between 40 and 70 babies are born each week in Za’atari. “I saw today through mothers in Za’atari how simple nutritional advice and support can be lifesaving for children being born into these tough camp conditions,” said Büyüküstün.
During a visit to a family in their caravan home, 12-year old Besan told Büyüküstün that she takes part in UNICEF supported drama classes to help express her feelings. “When I’m acting I can show what has happened to the children of Syria but also how strong we are and our hope for the future,” said Besan.
Büyüküstün finally joined Besan in a drama workshop at an ‘Adolescent Friendly Space’. The centre, run with UNICEF partner International Medical Corps, provides girls and boys aged 12 to 18 with psychosocial support through activities such as theatre, art and sports.
“The power of art and drama can give these girls a platform from which to let out their energy and feelings,” said Büyüküstün. “It is critically important to give Syrian children opportunities for learning and self-development before it’s too late,” she added.
Championing the children of Syria
“Tuba has brought smiles to hundreds of children here in Za’atari today,” said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Jordan Representative. “She is a positive role model for children across the region. We hope that her visit will further inspire Syrian children to realise their dreams in life,” Jenkins added.
The Syrian crisis, close to its four year mark, shows no signs of abating and has become even more complex. The children of Syria needs more and more influential personalities from the region and around the world, to champion their cause for a better and peaceful future.
There are currently some 622,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, more than half are children. Tuba Büyüküstün, winner of several national acting awards and an International Emmy Award nominee, was appointed as a UNICEF Turkey Goodwill Ambassador in 2014. Her visit to Jordan is Büyüküstün’s first international trip in this role.