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From Isolation to Integration in Jordan

Canada in Jordan
April 4, 2018

Of the 660,000 registered refugees in Jordan, more than half are children under 18 years old.

Ibrahim arrived in Jordan in 2014 at the age of 10, sad and withdrawn. Fifteen-year-old Lamia was similarly disengaged. The war in Syria had forced their families to leave behind everything they knew in search of safety.

Ibrahim and Lamia are two of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have sought refuge in Jordan to escape conflict. Jordan’s economy and services face extreme pressure to address the needs of those displaced Syrians, who mostly live in cities, towns and villages, not emergency camps.

Of the 660,000 registered refugees in Jordan, more than half are children under 18 years old.

A safe place

In response to this growing need, the Embassy of Canada to Jordan partnered with World Vision to open eight child friendly spaces for refugee and Jordanian children. These centres offer a safe place for at-risk girls and boys to be themselves.

Qualified child protection staff offer guidance and counselling, and activities including art classes, recycling projects, and computer classes to encourage children to express themselves and build friendships.

“We are especially proud to support projects that serve Syrian refugees and Jordanians, while advancing the empowerment of women and girls. We will continue to work with Jordan to help ensure its continued stability and prosperity.” – Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Ibrahim enjoys gardening in the NOUR Project's Child Friendly Space. Photo Credit: World Vision.

Difficult beginnings

When Ibrahim first enrolled in one of the child friendly spaces, he was quiet, often opting not to participate in group activities. It was clear the conflict and trauma he had endured had left an indelible mark.

He was reintroduced to an activity full of fond memories—gardening.

“I still remember vividly planting the garden with my father in Syria.” – Ibrahim

Within a few months, Ibrahim started to come out of his shell and engage more with other children. Today, when Ibrahim enters a session at the child friendly space, he doesn’t hesitate to grab a chair and sit down with his many new friends. The wide smile on his face and eagerness to participate in every activity available serve as proof that resilience and healing is possible.

Reclaiming childhood

“I’m a grown-up. I’m not a child like the rest of these people. I have more important things to do than play around.” – Lamia

As the eldest in a single-parent home, Lamia often shoulders more responsibility than other kids her age, working to help her mother make ends meet and caring for her two younger siblings. By the time she joined the child friendly space, Lamia felt too old to partake in many of the activities and benefitted from one-on-one counselling.

At the centre, she learned about her rights and freedoms and why she doesn’t need to be in a hurry to grow up or get married. She was reassured that she hadn’t outgrown her youth and that it was her right to enjoy being a child. Lamia, too, now embraces activities such as recycling, art and computer classes. She has made friends with children her own age and feels thankful for the chance to reclaim her childhood.

“I am a completely different person after taking part in the Child Friendly Space. It truly is the light in my life. I used to think that I couldn’t play or laugh, but now I’m convinced that I can. Now I understand that at my age, this is what I should be doing.” – Lamia

With support from Canada, local partners are delivering comprehensive services to displaced Syrians in Jordan, especially gender-based violence survivors, women, children and youth.

From health services to sanitation and hygiene interventions to protection services, these programs also help achieve Jordan’s long-term development objectives while strengthening the country’s response to the refugee crisis.

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