KHF Outreach
Counselors from the Noor Al Hussein Foundation Go the Extra Mile to Provide Psychosocial Support to Syrian Children in Jordan
21st February 2012
 Artwork of 13-year old girl from Daraa

For the past several months Fatima Al Qady has been traveling three hours a day to-and-from Ramtha to conduct individual and group counseling sessions with Syrian children and their parents. 


The 27-year old psychologist from the Noor Al Hussein Foundation's Institute for Family Health (IFH) in Amman says she's motivated to "go the extra mile" because she sees it's an opportunity to provide counseling services to the 27 children and 17 families who have recently fled the violence in Syria. 


"I feel its my duty to support and help them," Qady explained. "I always think to myself I could be in their place someday where I will need somebody to support and help me."   

Qady says some of her adult clients were subject to violence in Syria before fleeing to Jordan.

While she notes its difficult at this early stage to diagnose the children she counsels and observes, Qady remarks some of the children have exhibited symptoms of trauma including a five-year old boy who was experiencing nightmares and a 13-year old boy who was wetting his bed.   

Qady says a 17-year old girl from Daraa she'd been working with three times a week for more than two months just recently stopped having nightmares. Qady says the young woman said her father had been shot in the leg while fleeing Syria with the family after her 28-year old sister was shot and killed in her home.   

33-year old Early Child Specialist Bilal Zawateen has also been making the daily 111 km trek to Ramtha with his colleague Fatima Al Qady.   

He works with the children by providing psychosocial activities including games designed to build trust, and activities including drama, painting and drawing and exercises tailored to release stress.   

"Certainly it makes a big difference in their lives," Zawateen remarked, "in the way children start communicating with each other…and the way children start communicating with their parents…even in the way they communicate with me and Fatima."   

He says some of the children he works with exhibit symptoms associated with trauma including depression and anxiety.   

As an example Zawateen pulls out a drawing by a 13-year old girl from Daraa who is related to the family whose sister was killed. 

The drawing depicts a little girl in a yellow dress surrounded by bright yellow and orange flowers and red butterflies, but penciled tears stream down her cheeks and large rain drops fall from a bright blue sky onto her head while the sun shines on the bright yellow and orange flowers on the left side of the drawing.  A black cloud also hovers overhead.


Zawateen says the young artist explained that this was the way she felt while walking home from school one day after learning about the troubling events unfolding around her. 


In addition to the children and families, Zawateen and Qady also work with single men. 


It's all part of a three-month program supported by UNICEF for Syrian families who have fled to Jordan. 


Classroom instruction and psychosocial support are offered at a safe facility in a building recently renovated by the UNHCR. UNICEF provides remedial education with two teachers hired from Ramtha and the funding to support the counseling services and activities offered by the two staff members from the IFH


Dominique Hyde, UNICEF Representative in Jordan, says UNICEF's priority is to make sure that children recover their lost sense of safety and protection, and resume their education. She says working with the Noor Al Hussein Foundation is the key to their success: 


"As vulnerable Syrian children were coming into Jordan we needed a fast response," said Hyde, "It was easy to quickly ask the Noor Al Hussein Foundation to step in. They have the credibility, the experience, and the staff in place to be able to respond and really help children's well-being." 


UNHCR Senior Programme Officer Amra Nuhbegovic explains the UNHCR's role is one of coordinating with the government partners as well as with UN agencies and NGOs to respond to the needs. 


She adds that UNICEF together with the Noor Al Hussein Foundation is providing education, a child-friendly space and psychosocial counseling: 


"You know by having space to be with your peers, in addition to having structured activities with specialists is the best you can do for the time being and it brings stability to the family as well." 


The IFH believes in taking a comprehensive approach to counseling and therapy; Qady and Zawateen work with the children and their parents in order to help families get back on the road to recovery. 


"Severe trauma will leave gaps in your personality," explains IFH Director Dr. Manal Tahtamouni, "and counseling is not meant to take you back to normal, but its aim is to help you learn to function well." 


Tahtamouni says the institute began providing psychological counseling to Iraqi men, women and children who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in 2006 and now manages a second clinic in East Amman. 


The main facility in Sweileh also serves as a training center for professionals in the field of trauma.

Part of the psychosocial support at the facility in Ramtha involves an art exercise in which Zawateen instructs the Syrian mothers to create something of beauty. The result of their efforts?  

A large fluffy white dove constructed out of cardboard and white cotton balls, a daisy designed with white sunflower seeds, and a bright bouquet of pink, orange and yellow tulips, complete with bright green stems.

The paper bouquet represents the villages the mothers used to live in where they were surrounded by flowers and greenery, representing happiness and joy.

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