Creating Safe Spaces for Children in Iraq

September 4, 2018 • Iraq
Children perform together at their graduation from the child-friendly space classes.

Samaritan’s Purse is giving hundreds of children—survivors of war—a caring environment in which to grow, play, and learn about God.

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The children in Iraq’s displacement camps on the Nineveh Plains have experienced more trauma in their young lives than many people will go through in their entire lifetime.

Jessica Langevin (center) rejoices with two CFS participants after their graduation.

Jessica Langevin (center) rejoices with two child-friendly space participants after their graduation.

“Many of them have seen their parents murdered in front of them,” said Jessica Langevin, Samaritan’s Purse children and family program manager in Iraq.

“They’ve seen tanks and soldiers and armies walking down the street with guns. They’ve seen killing after killing. They’ve heard bombs going over their houses. They’ve seen their homes destroyed. They’ve watched their friends—their playmates—die.”

On top of all these traumatic experiences, these children have been living in displacement camps for well over a year. ISIS destroyed their homes in Mosul and robbed their families not only of their finances, but also their sense of normalcy.

“Samaritan’s Purse is here to create a place for children to be children.”

“Samaritan’s Purse is here to create a place for children to be children,” Jessica said.

A Place for Children to Play and Learn

Through a child-friendly space (CFS) that offers classes twice a week for two hours at a time, Samaritan’s Purse is giving 6- to 11-year-old kids in four displacement camps—roughly 800 total—the opportunity to learn about everything from hygiene and how to be a better friend to Bible stories and the fruit of the Spirit.

After their graduation, child-friendly space graduates celebrate in the shirts they made in class.

After their graduation, children celebrate in the shirts they made in class.

“We want them to come here and know that God loves them. We want them to feel joy,” Jessica said. “They’re learning about patience and peace and kindness when that’s not what they’re seeing around them, but those are the things we want them to learn here.”

Farah, 11, who graduated from the CFS program in April, said that what she loved the most was the opportunity to play—especially with the blocks and on the slide.

“My favorite story was Moses, when Pharaoh tried to kill all the children and his mother hid him,” Farah said.

Like Moses, God protected the lives of these young ones, and by His grace, they may also grow to lead their people. Jessica’s hope for the Iraqi children she works with is that they will remember what they’ve learned and come to thank God for it, telling their families about Him.

Ministering to Families Recovering from War

Pouring good into children ultimately serves their parents well too. This Samaritan’s Purse program is giving boys and girls a sense of joy and happiness that displaced parents struggle to provide.

CFS graduates wear construction paper mortarboard hats they made with their mothers.

Graduates wear construction paper mortarboard hats they made with their mothers.

“My kids feel really happy when they come,” Farah’s mother, Sonia, said. “They’re joyful when they’re here.”

Other parents are noticing changes in their children’s habits. One girl who hadn’t taken a shower since arriving in the camp now bathes regularly. Other children who were scared at night now have peace and something to look forward to in the morning.

In addition, parents of participating children are invited to take part in a class called “Healing Wounds of Trauma.” This weeklong course offered in men’s and women’s groups covers topics ranging from caring for children to forgiveness. Through the course, the lives of parents are being transformed even as their kids are learning new life skills.

A graduate shows off his diploma from the CFS classes.

A graduate shows off his diploma.

Even infants are not left out. Samaritan’s Purse nutritional programming screens for malnutrition in children under 5 and provides skilled breastfeeding training for mothers.

“From the little things to big things, the entire family is feeling loved and feeling seen. They feel special. It’s a bright light in kind of a gray place,” Jessica said.

Through Samaritan’s Purse child and family programming in Iraq, the traumas of war are not having the last word. What others intended for evil, God is using for good (see Genesis 50:20).

SUPPORT
In places like Egypt, India, and Haiti, Samaritan’sPurse partners with local Christian partners who protect helpless children and rescue them from exploitation. For $75, we can help provide them with a safe place, meet their daily needs, and teach them the Gospel, “in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).
Rescue Children in Crisis Millions of children living in impoverished, dangerous parts of the world are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. These little ones need food, shelter, and the assurance that they are safe, but they also need to know that they are loved and valued by God. You can help Samaritan's Purse reach children in desperate circumstances, caring for their needs, offering Biblical teaching and counseling, and introducing them to the eternal hope found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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