Basel * wakes up every night with the fear of being hit by a missile. His father was mutilated three years ago and now has prosthetics instead of his hand and legs. “He is blind – says little Basel – because he also lost his eyes during the war. He is always angry and sometimes he hits me … But I always forgive him, because I know he is suffering a lot “.
Hassan is 12 years old and can neither read nor write. He loves playing soccer with his friends and one of his biggest dreams is to be able to meet Messi one day. “Before I came here, my friends and I would collect sheets of paper to make a soccer ball and play” says Hassan. But they could not play in any other place but the street in the rubble, with the risk of getting hurt.
Aida is 7. The war destroyed her family in the same way it destroyed her house. She has been abandoned by her parents and she no longer receives the attention a girl her age deserves. Aida is shy, but every time the teacher sits next to her and teaches her to read with love and attention, she opens up into a heart breaking smile.
These are just three of the 150 children who participate in after school activities offered by the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land in Aleppo. The war has taken away a lot from them. They are vulnerable, helpless, fragile, with deep psychological traumas. Together with the Custody, Association pro Terra Sancta considers its priority to help these children, because they are the future of Aleppo.
The post-school project offers the chance to study and play to children like Hassan, without any risk. It offers girls like Aida the attention and care, the ability to express themselves and be themselves. It offers to all those like Basel a hope and a support within a humanity torn by pain.
In the Franciscan centre children are divided into small groups according to their levels of learning so that they can learn together with highly trained teachers and educators. Besides the three hours a day of recovery lessons in all subjects, they also follow other extra-curricular activities such as sport, dance and drawing. Many of them draw for the first time in their life and through this medium, they express all their hidden pain.
In addition to the important support in the physical reconstruction of apartments in Aleppo, the Association pro Terra Sancta has at heart the activities of spiritual reconstruction and psychological support for the young generations torn by the conflict. It is important to intervene in the to mend, as far as possible, the deep wounds that afflict these little Syrian children.
* Names in the text have been changed to protect the children’s privacy.