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Help Young Syrians Affected By War

by International Alert
Help Young Syrians Affected By War
Help Young Syrians Affected By War
Help Young Syrians Affected By War
Help Young Syrians Affected By War
Help Young Syrians Affected By War
Help Young Syrians Affected By War
Peace education session_photo credit Givewith
Peace education session_photo credit Givewith

Dear friends,

As you may know, the situation in Lebanon is unstable at the moment. We have had to stop for a short time in October the peace education sessions due to demonstrations in different parts of Lebanon. However, we see that this type of support is even more important under these circumstances. Indeed, these sessions are taking place in the North governorate in one of the most underprivileged and undeserved regions in Lebanon, with severe poverty levels and high numbers of refugees. The programme focused therefore on information the children on what rights they have, as well as developing tools to resolve conflict in a peaceful way. Thanks to them, the children strengthened their self-confidence, highlighted their role in the decision-making process, played an active role within their community, and appeared as individuals who are capable of creating change within their surroundings. We clearly saw the impact and success of these social initiatives: the parents were proud and engaged in all the topics the children addressed.

I wanted to share with you Mohammad’s story to show the small but very important change this project brings at the community level:

Mohammad is an 11-year-old boy, coming from a poor family who has lot of problems. His parents’ relationship is under a lot of strain and this causes tension inside the household and stress for Mohammad. Refugees in Lebanon often face problems in accessing jobs and services, as well as discrimination, which can have a detrimental impact on the family unit. After attending the sessions, the child went to his mother and said:" Mama relax and sit down. Take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale. Close your eyes and imagine good things. You must do this twice a day where it will decrease your nervousness”. Relaxation is a technique that facilitators use in every session and now Mohammad was practicing this with his mother. This technique helped relieve her stress and strengthen positive bonds between family members.   

Once again, thank you all for your support which enables children build peace from the playground up.

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With the recent events in Lebanon, our project and sessions have been halted for 13 days for security reasons and road blockage. Now that the situation is relatively back to normal, the center will reopen and continue to welcome young Syrian refugees affected by war. 

We are trying to continue to keep these centers open in 2020. Integrating mental healthcare and psychosocial support into humanitarian efforts is important and contributes to societies' ability to recover from conflict, rebuild peaceful societies, and prevent future conflict.

A recent World Health Organisation study revealed the effect of violent conflict on people’s mental health is even higher than previously thought. Researchers found that one in five people in post-conflict settings has depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. This makes it extremely challenging to rebuild societies affected by conflict – even after the fighting stops. Time and again we see not only the impact of trauma on the individual, but also on the very fabric of society, in the way people relate to each other, how they solve problems and bring up their children.

As an organisation with over 30 years’ experience building peace after brutal conflicts, we have been pushing for this as a way of investing in societies’ ability to recover from conflict, rebuild peaceful societies, and prevent future conflict.

Indeed, this is what we have been doing in our peace education project in Lebanon – an approach that involves training educators to promote peaceful interaction between children and young people through building respect for diversity, creating safe spaces and providing specialist support for children to deal with trauma, and restoring social support networks.

This approach has been successful in supporting children and young people to resolve tensions through dialogue and listening to others, and to manage and express anger in non-violent ways, thus helping them heal and regain a positive self-identity. This in turn helps lay the foundations for building social cohesion, benefiting individuals and communities alike.

Building peace takes time and patience and a willingness to chip away at the often hidden, psychological, impacts of conflict as well as the physical ones. Examples like our peace education project in Lebanon demonstrates that this can be done, even in the most difficult circumstances.

We thank you very much for continuing to support this important work.

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Mostapha playing (c) Basmeh and Zeitooneh
Mostapha playing (c) Basmeh and Zeitooneh

Dear friends,

Karim, a facilitator from our Peace Education project, run with Basmeh and Zeitooneh in Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, shares Mostapha’s story with us.

“Mostapha* is an 11-year-old Syrian boy who, when he first joined the Peace Education sessions, was extremely shy, introverted and didn’t seem to feel comfortable with himself. He refused to express his emotions or share any aspect of his life with anybody, whether it was something amusing or sad.

After many sessions of trying to break the ice and getting him more involved in activities, I noticed that he was becoming more interested in physical activities we organised (such as playback theatre and body expression). Slowly he started to express his thoughts and feelings using his body during the break with a few of the other children who attend the sessions.

Soon enough Mostapha started interacting with the wider group more and even shared his passion for acting with us all. We saw this develop further when another facilitator gave the children a theatrical exercise task, where they were asked to express themselves using their body without talking. This was the first time Mostapha felt comfortable enough to participate in the activities, he even asked to go on stage several times.

At the end of the sessions, Mustapha started to share his ideas, emotions and stories about his background and history.

The Peace Education program helped Mostapha find a place where he felt comfortable enough to get out of the box he used to stay hidden in.

He wrote a short theatre play with the group called ‘friends’ and was excited to prepare for the social initiative where he presented a great performance.”

Mostapha’s mother also tells us of the transformation she saw in her son after he attended the Peace Education sessions.

“He was extremely quiet but aggressive before he joined the sessions. Always shy, he didn't speak to anyone and kept his emotions to himself. His only friend was his cousin.

I decided to enroll him in the Peace Education sessions because I wanted him to explore new things. Things he couldn’t at the time because he wasn't attending school, instead he was always at home, which made the situation worse.

The more he attended the sessions, the more I could see him change. He has become calmer, his personality has started to grow, he comes home looking happy and enthusiastic, he has developed many communication skills and he started to love the new school I enrolled him in.

Now, he plays at home and invents games to entertain himself, he even writes and draws.

The biggest change that I have seen in him is that he has become wiser – he listens to me and to his father, and now we are able to discuss things together without Mostapha being violent or aggressive. He used to hit his siblings, now he respects them. Mostapha isn’t the only one who has changed, we’ve all changed with him, without noticing it.

I want him to study and develop more. He's smart. I'm happy. He understands himself and us more now.”

Over the course of a year 770 children have benefited from the Peace Education sessions. The sessions gave the children a safe space to play, express themselves and process their feelings about the conflict. It also helped to improve their resilience in the face of violence and displacement and heal through play, art and theatre activities. These important sessions continue to take place in several parts of Lebanon and with your help, we could reach even more children.

Building peace is a vital investment in the future. It takes time, sometimes decades, but with your help, we know it’s possible. Once again, thank you for supporting our work.

Warm regards,

Maria Fiorio

Mostapha painting a picture - Basmeh and Zeitooneh
Mostapha painting a picture - Basmeh and Zeitooneh
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Dear friends,

As we are about to enter the festive season, we would like to thank you very much for your support. We are extremely grateful for your donations and for their contribution towards offering Syrian children the opportunity to access safety, education and a place where they can play and enjoy their childhood.

Our Peace Through Play project gives child refugees another chance for their future. Together with our local partners Basmeh and Zeitooneh, we work in refugee camps in Lebanon providing organised, therapeutic play sessions to help traumatised children to heal. We help them develop the skills necessary to build resilience to conflict and reduce their vulnerability to recruitment by violent extremist groups. Sessions include games, drama, music and art – creative ways for children to express difficult emotions. The sessions also involve playback theatre to encourage children to work through the trauma they have faced.

I want to share with you the story of A.R, a quiet and thoughtful 11-year-old boy, who hasn’t known peace or stability and whose confidence with others has been severely shaken over the years. He has been living in the overcrowded Shatila refugee camp for the last four years after fleeing to Lebanon in 2014. He recently started attending the peace play sessions. At the beginning, A.R. used to keep leaving the sessions and coming back, interrupting everyone and all activities. His only means of expression was through an aggressive behaviour and hitting those around him. He refused to take part in any activity and would go against anything that the facilitator suggested. After a few sessions, he started to arrive on time, participated in the activities, interacted with the children and the facilitators using words instead of violence. “After engaging in the Peace Play sessions, A.R. became happier. He is not shy anymore, he even made friends.”, says one of Basmeh and Zeitooneh’s facilitator. The dramatic change in A.R. shows that there is hope for these kids if they are given stability, laughter and experiences not tainted with trauma.

With your support, we provided the children living in Shatila refugee camp a safe space for them to play and be children again. We have been implementing this peace education programme since 2015 and have already helped 7000 children in the region.

We are now expanding in Tripoli and Bourj El Barajneh Lebanon where the need is crucial. Together with our partners, we are seeking funding to run these projects in 2019. So, as you are preparing for the holiday season, think of the gift you could make to these children. Any support will help! 

Building peace is a vital investment in the future. It takes time, sometimes decades, but with your help, we know it’s possible.

Once again, thank you for supporting our work.

Warm regards,

Maria Fiorio

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For this first report on this project we'd like to begin by offering a huge thank you to everyone who has supported the work so far.  We are truly very grateful for your donations and for their contribution towards offering Syrian children the opportunity to access safety, education and a place where they can play and enjoy their childhood.

We'd also like to announce a really exciting development in keeping this work possible with the launch of The Body Shop's Play for Peace campaign which you can see further details of here:

This campaign means that every gift bought in a Body Shop store this Christmas also supports a contribution towards this project.  We're delighted to have been offered this partnership and support by The Body Shop and are looking forward to reaching even more Syrian children in the future.  So if you're passing a store, please check out the campaign!


Everyone at International Alert

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Organization Information

International Alert

Location: LONDON, England - United Kingdom
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @intalert
Project Leader:
Ben Francis
LONDON, England United Kingdom
$7,962 raised of $13,035 goal
102 donations
$5,073 to go
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