Ash-Sham Care: Playgrounds and education for Syrian children

War has been raging in Syria for years. The situation is especially bad for the children. The school system has collapsed. Their prospects are bleak. Swiss aid organization Ash-Sham Care is doing its best to give the children of Syria an outlook for the future.

Photo: Ash-Sham Care

They are experiencing their childhood in the midst of war. They have grown up with bombing, fighting and besiegement. Many Syrian children cannot remember a life in anything but a state of emergency. Civil war has been raging in their country for five years. That’s how long they’ve not been able to go to school properly, haven’t had regular meals, often don’t even have a home. The children of Syria, more than two million of them, have been called a “lost generation”. A generation growing up with a complete lack of safety and education, trapped in a cycle of misery and violence.

The aid workers from Swiss non-profit organization Ash-Sham Care don’t want to give up on the children of Syria. They are doing all they can to make the lives of young Syrians that little bit better. “The reports about Syria that we see on TV in the West are all about the bombings or crimes committed by the terrorist organization IS”, said Oscar Bergamin, the aid organization’s founder. “But there are whole regions that were previously desolated by the turmoil of war but where there is seldom or never any fighting now.” And it is in these areas where Ash-Sham Care aid workers are building playgrounds. The town of Maarat an-Numan in Idlib province now has one such playground, a little place where children can play in the sandpit or swing on the swings. They can find something to take their minds off their worries – at least for a brief moment.

Lack of education is another problem Ash-Sham Care is trying to tackle. Aid workers have installed four brightly colored school portacabins in the Bab al-Salam refugee camp in the province of Aleppo. Two women, Elsbeth de Jager and Esther van der Ham, who work for Ash-Sham Care, have written a children’s book that’s being handed out to the young Syrians here. The book is called “Jamil & Jamila” and it’s about two Syrian refugee children. It’s a book for reading, for coloring in and for dreaming. “The children can identify with the characters Jamil and Jamila, who live in a refugee camp”, explained Oscar Bergamin. “That has an immensely positive effect in helping them deal with the emotional stress they’re under.”

Ash-Sham Care founder Oscar Bergamin with Syrian refugee children. Photo: Ash-Sham Care

Ash-Sham Care founder Oscar Bergamin with Syrian refugee children.                   Photo: Ash-Sham Care

The Ash-Sham Care aid workers know that their help is not enough. The four school portacabins alone are totally insufficient, the Bab al-Salam refugee camp being home to 5,200 school-age children. The workers are also keen to build far more playgrounds. But the cost of a playground is between 3,000 and 4,000 euros. The work of Ash-Sham Care is funded by donations. It usually takes a while to get enough money together for a playground.

Even though their projects can only combat a small part of the misery, the Ash-Sham Care aid workers are confident they’re doing the right thing. “You can’t just leave a country like Syria to be bled dry”, said Oscar Bergamin. He is seeing more and more aid organizations pulling out of Syria. Most Syrian academics and skilled specialists have long fled to Europe. Those that have been left behind are mostly unable to do anything else. They are disappointed and frustrated. They feel let down – by their fellow countrymen, but also by the Western world, which keeping its financial aid back until such time as the war eventually ends. Oscar Bergamin doesn’t believe the people can wait that long. The Syrians urgently need help to survive right now. “Schooling and power and water supplies need to be ensured at the very least”, said Oscar Bergamin. “The risk of a bombing destroying any repairs that have been painstakingly made is always going to be there. But that doesn’t mean we can leave the Syrians alone in their hour of need.”

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  1. This site is talking about

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about aid.

  2. Oscar Bergamin

    Thank you for this article! We are always on the frontlines and have only little “back office” support. .. but to raise awareness about the children inside Syria is most important! Most media cover the political or military aspects only, forgetting those who suffer most: the children!

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