By Monica Awad and Masoud Hasen
Qamishli, Syrian Arab Republic, 6 April 2017 – Five years since the conflict forced her family to flee their home, Rawan is building much-needed skills – and finding a glimmer of hope for the future.
The 15-year-old is participating in a UNICEF-supported multi-service centre that serves as a one-stop shop for adolescents. It offers a safe space to learn new skills, participate in recreational activities, interact with peers and receive psychosocial support, all under one roof.
“I enjoy coming to this centre,” says Rawan with a smile. “It is making me a stronger person, and I am confident that it will help me realize my dreams for the future.”
Rawan, originally from Homs, is one of 2.7 million children internally displaced across Syria. The grief for all she has lost is still fresh.
“Five years ago, my family and I escaped the fighting in Homs,” she recalls. “We ran away with nothing but our clothes on our backs, and I lost my most valued gift – a doll my mom gave me when I graduated from kindergarten.”
Gathered around a table at one of the UNICEF-supported youth centre, Rawan and several other adolescent girls are busy making jewellery. Using colourful beads and buttons, Rawan helps the other girls design bracelets, necklaces and earrings.
“The greatest thing I ever designed is a set of accessories, which includes a bracelet, a necklace and earrings,” says Rawan. “Now, I am trying to inspire my peers by teaching them how to be creative and make similar or even better ones.”
Since 2016, more than 30,000 most vulnerable young people across Hasakeh Governorate have benefitted from 25 multi-service centres, and 16 mobile teams, supported by UNICEF with generous contribution from the Government of Japan and other donors. The mobile teams, bring similar activities to the multi-service centres, however, they aim to reach the most vulnerable youth including those living in hard- to- reach areas where providing such services is less conducive in fixed centres.
The resources and skills adolescents gain at these centres or through the mobile teams, help them cope amidst truly dire circumstances. Most of Syria’s families have used up their life savings and are struggling to cope with daily life. About 85 per cent of the population are currently living in poverty, with almost 70 per cent living in extreme poverty.
Mads Sorensen, Chief of UNICEF Syria’s Adolescent and Youth Development Programme, explains, “Through adolescent-friendly spaces and the multi-service centres, UNICEF builds adolescents’ life skills, such as communication skills, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity.”
“These skills are critical for the 21st century, and are even more critical in times of war,” he continues. “They help adolescents like Rawan better cope with the realities on the ground, and will help strengthen their resilience.”
Rawan and her peers are hoping to exhibit their assortment of jewellery and handicrafts at a bazaar. “I come here to further develop my skills and be creative,” says Rawan. She smiles, and adds, “I also hope I can earn some money to help my family.”
As Sorensen points out, these kinds of activities help adolescents build up their confidence – and that feeds hope.
Rawan certainly has plans for the future. She attends Sayida Zeinab school, where she enjoys her science classes most of all. “My favourite subjects in school are mathematics, physics and chemistry,” says Rawan. She is proud of her accomplishments and her aspirations. “I want to become a pharmacist when I grow up,” she says.