Nabil survived war, landmines and dangerous ideas to restore a stolen childhood.

Nabil* is back in the tent for the last time before the holidays. As soon as he is welcomed by his siblings, he shares highlights from his day at the ‘school.’

"We played Musical Chairs and I hanged my red star on the wall."

The simple, fun-filled activities that Nabil is enjoying at Save the Children’s Early Childhood Care and Development centre could have been much more serious, had the six-year-old stayed in Raqqa and completed a first week at an ISIS-run school.

"He went to a school [in Raqqa] and we found out he was learning about dangerous things; war and violence,’’ says Nabil’s aunt, Khadija. "His imagination was poisoned with frightening ideas. We stopped sending him because we were worried they would take him away like they did with other children."

In Lebanon, Nabil gradually got accustomed to his new surroundings. After a perilous journey to safety in which he had to cross minefields and walk for hours at night, the child finally recovered from a traumatic period. Education had a particularly healing impact on him.

“Education has helped. He became responsive to his teachers and he was convinced that no-one wanted to do him harm. He has overcome his fear. Unlike in Raqqa, he now leaves the house without a fear of cars. He feels psychologically safe. That’s what matters" explains his aunt, Khadija.

*Names have been changed for protection.


Nabil left Syria when he was five after his family felt it was too dangerous to stay. Before the escape, Nabil attended a school run by ISIS, where children as young as three learned about war, fight and death. The boy was taken out immediately after the family found out what he was being taught. 

At Save the Children’s Early Childhood Care and Development, supported by the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Bilal is overcoming his traumas through education activities that encourage him to express his emotions and prepare him for the first year at school.