After Mosul's Horrors, Creating Child-Friendly Spaces

May 1, 2017 • Iraq
Samaritan's Purse is creating Child-Friendly Spaces for children of Mosul.
Samaritan's Purse is creating Child-Friendly Spaces for children of Mosul.

Samaritan's Purse is providing time and opportunity for children to begin recovering.

As the battle for Mosul rages between ISIS and coalition forces, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, severely injured, or traumatized by the atrocities of war.

Children here have seen things no one ever should see. Many have seen family and friends killed or have witnessed the destruction of their homes.

Children here have seen things no one ever should see. Many have witnessed family and friends killed.

It is the deadliest urban battle since World War II, scarring families physically and emotionally. Children have seen more violence and terror in just three years under ISIS than anyone should see in a lifetime.

Wounds of War

Samaritan’s Purse is working to heal both the physical and spiritual wounds of war. While the former are obvious, the latter can be just as terrible.

To treat the physical wounds, Samaritan’s Purse is operating an emergency field hospital just outside of Mosul. Medical staff have treated more than 1,400 victims of war and performed 745 major surgeries since its opening in January. More than 40 percent of these patients are women and children injured in a war they were not fighting in. Those who escaped with their lives lost their innocence.

Samaritan’s Purse teams are working in three refugee camps outside of Mosul to restore hope and demonstrate the love of God. One way we are addressing the invisible wounds of war is through character classes for children ages 6-11.

Sometimes these traumatized children need to be reminded of simple joys.

“The idea is to give these children two hours a week of an alternate world—a world where they can be children again,” said Jessica Langevin, Child-Friendly Spaces Program Coordinator in Iraq.

This child-friendly program gives kids the opportunity to play games, have fun, and laugh again—all while learning about love, joy, peace, patience, and other Biblical traits.

Sanaa,* who escaped west Mosul with five children, worries about their wellbeing. ISIS fighters forced her children, ages 2-11, to stand outside on the street and watch a bomb detonate inside their home. Sanaa knows it could have been worse; many of their neighbors died in similar attacks. Nevertheless, Sanaa’s children are haunted with the memories of war.

In another tent, Amira,* an 11-year-old girl, listened as her mom recounted their escape from Mosul. When asked what she remembered from that day, Amira buried her face in her mother’s shoulder, unable to explain the horror of life under ISIS.

“These children have been robbed of their childhood,” said Jessica Langevin, Child-Friendly Spaces Program Coordinator in Iraq. “Nothing in the camps resembles a normal childhood—everything is rationed, they don’t attend a regular school, and their parents have also experienced trauma, which makes it hard for them to be caregivers.”

“It gives them a new beginning,” Sura said. “We are teaching them to dream, look to the future, respect each other, and live in peace,” said Sura who teaches a class in Child-Friendly Space

“We are teaching them to dream, look to the future, respect each other, and live in peace,” said Sura, a Baghdad native who teaches a class in our Child-Friendly Space.

Jessica designed the Child-Friendly Spaces program to meet an overwhelming need within the camps. Samaritan’s Purse identified 100 of the most vulnerable children between three camps, and is engaging them in weekly classes.

“The classes may seem simple, but the idea is to give these children two hours a week of an alternate world—a world where they can be children again,” Jessica said. “We are sowing seeds, and giving these children a chance to dream about their future.”

During each class, participants will learn about a key character trait, such as love, kindness, and patience—character traits that ISIS has fought to eliminate over the past three years.

A New Start

Child-Friendly Spaces provides children a safe place to play and a chance to experience love and friendship in Jesus' Name.

Child-Friendly Spaces provide children a safe place to play and build new friendships.

On opening day of the program, 20 children tentatively kicked their shoes off at the entrance to the tent and were greeted with balloons, streamers, and music. Slowly, their guarded faces transformed into smiles as they played games like “Simon Says” and “Duck, Duck, Goose.”

When it was time for their first lesson, they were engaged and eager to answer the teacher’s questions. After 10 weeks, a graduation ceremony will mark their accomplishments, and their parents will be invited to attend the celebration.

There are five classes, each comprised of twenty children, that meet once a week. The small class size allow the teachers to truly invest in their students. They make a point to know each of the children by name, visit their tents, understand their struggles, and meet their family.

“My hope is that this will minister to the whole family,” Jessica said. “When the parents see their children receiving love, I hope they feel it too.”

Child-Friendly Spaces in Iraq give children freedom to make noise and music and, we pray, to experience new life.

Child-Friendly Spaces in Iraq give children freedom to make noise and music and, we pray, to experience new life.

Sura, originally from Baghdad, is one of the character class teachers. Sura recognizes that children are the future of her country, which is why she is excited to be a part of the child-friendly program.

“It gives them a new beginning,” Sura said. “We are teaching them to dream, look to the future, respect each other, and live in peace.”

Samaritan’s Purse is committed to investing in these student’s lives and reminding them that there is still hope. Children are resilient, and God’s love is greater than the tragedy they have witnessed.

*Names changed for security.

SUPPORT
Northern Iraq
Northern Iraq Projects Samaritan’s Purse has established an emergency trauma field hospital to treat those injured in the conflict between Iraqi and coalition forces and ISIS militants in Mosul. We are also distributing desperately needed food and non-food relief items to many of the more than 330,000 people displaced by this conflict since October 2016. We also continue to help meet the long-term physical and spiritual needs of impoverished families whose lives were disrupted by the rapid advance of ISIS in 2014.

Northern Iraq Projects 013929
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