Homs, Syria – Azzam, 22, is a volunteer at the UNICEF supported centre in Homs. He says the world must do more to stem the tide of despair and help offer up positive solutions from within for Syria’s youth.
Five years into the bloody conflict in Syria, Azzam and the centre have played a direct role in helping hundreds of young people develop skills to withstand loss of homes, family and friends and be the agents of change that are so needed in rebuilding their country.
He wants to be a psychologist.
“There is this stereotype of Syrian people that they are living in a hopeless situation. But that is not the full story,” he said. “We want to take responsibility and build our community and aide people. We want to build back, not just buildings but human beings.”
Unlike others, Azzam wants to stay and help. “If I go to Europe I might have a nice car and be safe, but then I start my life from zero. I lose my community, my values. I don’t want to say that everything is ok here, of course it’s not. But essentially this is not the end. Rather it will motivate us to do even more. We want people to help us help ourselves.”
Since he started volunteering at the youth centre, Azzam learnt a lot and is even more motivated. “There are angry children. The amount of anger and violence made us discover a bunch of problems. We see it in the sketches children draw. They draw guns and violence and a sense of us and them.”
For Azzam, this is a community issue. “There is no we, and that’s when you know there is a problem,” he explains. “If you allow it to fester, it becomes an even bigger problem. We want people to think for themselves, empower them to think for themselves. We do not want to change the culture of our country but raise the positive values and support it and exclude the bad values for the benefit of the country.”
On why he volunteers on top of his studies and striving to be a psychologist, Azzam said that he sees many people in need of counselling. “The crisis made a lot of new problems,” he said. He wants to help.