Re-connecting young refugees to their Syrian roots

Mohammad enjoys learning about Syrian culture. Here, he makes a house out of cardboard, decorating it with what he’s learnt about Syrian traditions, art and values.

For many of the Syrian children living in Za’atari and Azraq camps, the camp is the only reality they know – after unimaginable violence and trauma, many have only hazy memories of their life in Syria, whilst others were born in the camp. Our sessions on cultural heritage allow children to learn about their Syrian heritage and identity, and create a connection to their homeland that is a source of pride and strength – developing roots greater than the refugee camp.

Children like Mohammad have grown up in Za’atari camp without a sense of the world outside it – not knowing, for example, what streetlights are, having never seen a landscape other than desert, or believing all kids grow up in a tin caravan.

Mohammad enjoys learning about syrian culture. here, he makes a house out of cardboard, decorating it with what he’s learnt about syrian traditions, art and values.
Mohammad (centre, in red) enjoys learning about Syrian culture. Here, he makes a house out of cardboard, decorating it with what he’s learnt about Syrian traditions, art and values.

With this in mind, our cultural heritage sessions help connect young refugees to the place they and their families come from — the home they have never seen. The children visit Dreamland, our safe space where the sessions are held. Here, they learn about Syrian traditions, geography and art, all culminating in this final project: creating a Syrian house out of cardboard, decorated according to each child’s unique understanding of the culture.

Mohammad’s mother, aziza, says life in the camp is extremely difficult, but our dreamland centre and sessions have offered a refuge for her family. the activities have helped mohammad, especially, to develop confidence and ambition.
Mohammad’s mother, Aziza, says life in the camp is extremely difficult, but our Dreamland centre and sessions have offered a refuge for her family. The activities have helped Mohammad, especially, to develop confidence and ambition.

“I believe that everyone needs to have roots. We’re here temporarily as refugees. We’re seeking security and help to keep living. However, I don’t want him [Mohammad] to forget about Syria.… I want him to learn about his history. I want him to love his homeland even if he’s not living there.” - Aziza, Mohammad’s mother

Eman facilitates sessions which enable young refugees to connect with their heritage and identity.
Eman facilitates sessions which enable young refugees to connect with their heritage and identity.

Eman is one of the facilitators of the sessions. She explains how the children take the information they have learnt from these sessions, and go back to their homes and tell it to their families. She has seen how this can help create a stronger sense of belonging for the whole family.

“When students first joined the sessions, they knew nothing. When you asked a boy ‘where are you from?’ he used to say ‘I'm from district 11, Za’atari Camp.’ They have no idea where they originally come from.” - Eman, class facilitator

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