This post, the fifth in our #Syriasly series, was written by Cassie Chesley, Media and Communications Director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force. The Syrian Emergency Task Force is a D.C. based non-profit organization created in March 2011 to convey the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people to Americans and the United States government. SETF also seeks to bring perpetrators in the Assad regime to justice through legal avenues in the United States. SETF provides policymakers with analysis and access to both the external and internal Syrian opposition. You can follow them on twitter at @syrianetf or visit their website at www.syriantaskforce.org. The photo attached to this post is the SETF field director at one of their schools.
A common expression in Syria is “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” The Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) tries to remember this axiom as we go about our work in an ever-changing, constantly challenging environment. For example, SETF coordinated with the local council of a village to open a school, assisting with writing a grant and compiling needs assessments for the community. As a result, an implementing partner agreed to finance the school for three months. For almost two months, the school has operated 5 days a week, providing a safe environment for children to learn, play, and heal.
This village, whose name will not be used for the safety of its people, is a beautiful example of interfaith cooperation and coexistence. The native population of the village is primarily Christian; however, since the conflict in Syria started almost 27 months ago over, 3,000 Sunni Muslim displaced by the conflict have made it their new home. This school, which is for students between the ages of 7 to 15 provides the opportunity for Christian and Muslim children living side by side to build relationships and learn together.
Syrian children are exposed to horrors that no human being should ever have to see or endure. This school provides an opportunity to enhance the capacity of teachers to help the community, and provide support for traumatized children. All teachers received training on child education and psychosocial care. Reopening this school allows these children an opportunity to normalize their lives even if it is for only 5 hours a day. With a conflict that has lasted over 2 years and has shown no sign of ceasing, rebuilding society and supporting the revolution must be simultaneous.
For a small amount of money, the basic social needs of children can be provided for. This cost provides clothes, food, and childcare. Upon visiting the school, the children are happy and express love for their teachers and schooling. They beg for the school to remain open, but there is only enough funding for 3 months.
Five thousand and five hundred dollars succeeded in bringing a little normalcy back into the lives of 100 Syrian children. Thousands more will be required to build a bright future for Syrian children.