Multi-Activity Centre: Saving a Family

Sunday 10 August 2014

In Za’atari camp, Save the Children runs Multi-Activitiy Centres that focus on youth and adolescents. The centres offer a wide range of educational, sports, and psychosocial support activities to children aged between 14 and 24. As part of the Multi-Activity Center for girls, Save the Children also offers sessions for mothers in the camp, offering them a space to learn skills, express their feelings and make friends. The sessions for mothers range from parenting and hygiene to knitting and soap making.

Mother of five, 36 year old Lamees has been attending the centre for seven months. Before the conflict in Syria, Lamees and her family led normal lives. Her husband a farmer and she a housewife, all of their children were attending school and Friday picnics were a must for the family. Everything changed when the violence broke out in Syria. Lamees’s children were forced to miss a full year of schooling, and spent over one month living under extreme shelling and severe shortage of food, water and electricity before taking the decision to escape to neighboring Jordan.

“My children grew up way beyond their age, because of everything they witnessed,” shared Lamees, “we had to leave Syria while our children were still alive.”

After an exhausting two-day journey to enter Jordan, the family found refuge in Za’atari camp. Living in a tent, using communal bathrooms and kitchens, with no money, Lamees was having a very difficult time getting accustomed to life in the camp. She started showing signs of depression and considered abandoning her family and return to Syria.

“For several months I didn’t want to speak to anyone, and I couldn’t tolerate even my own children. I tried more than once to leave them behind with their father and escape on my own back to Syria. I was mentally drained and I resented my own children,” Lamees expressed. 

Lamees was approached by Save the Children staff who informed her of the activities offered at the multi-activity centre. For her first session, Lamees was introduced to the other mothers, engaged in discussions with the staff, and participated in a knitting activity. After one week of her attending the sessions, Lamees received psychosocial support from the staff in one-on-one sessions which helped improve her wellbeing. She made friends with the mothers at the centre and started to attend on a regular basis, actively engaging in all activities.

“I felt like I was being reborn when I was introduced to the center,” said Lamees proudly.

 

Through a partnership with UNICEF, Save the Children offers a variety of activities at the center to help mothers at the camp cope with their new realities.  Among the ones that helped Lamees in particular are music, knitting, soap making, and sharing stories with the mothers.

“I started to meet women here, and I learned that we’ve all been through horrible experiences in this conflict which comforted me to know that I am not alone in this struggle,” shared Lamees, “As mothers we benefit here a lot because of the weight we have to carry on our shoulders living in the camp. The centre completely takes our minds off of the reality that we are refugees; it makes us feel normal again.”

Lamees also enjoys that fact that she is able to interact with non-Arabic speaking women who sometimes volunteer at the multi-activity centre.

“We learn English here, and I’m happy that I get to practice my skills with the non-Arab volunteers here. They teach me new vocabulary and I teach it to my children at home,” said Lamees.

The mothers have been working together to try and set up a library at the centre. They are eager to be able to borrow books, strengthen their reading skills and stimulate their minds. The centre also allows the mothers to bring their young children to make it easier for the mothers to attend.

 “I’m a different person now than who I was 7 months ago,” shared Lamees, “My children are my most precious gift from God, and the multi-activity centre is what helped me see them this way again. Our experience at the centre reflects positively on our families and children, because it improves our wellbeing.”  

 

Over 140 mothers benefit from the Multi-Activity Centre in Za’atari camp, where Save the Children is able to provide them with skills, psychosocial support and a safe environment to bring back a sense of normalcy in their lives.