By the age of 13, Amer* had lived in a besieged area, witnessed four massacres, and suffered three injuries before escaping the war in Syria and seeking refuge in Za’atari Camp in Jordan. For months, Amer and his family lived in a besieged village in Damascus in constant fear of air strikes and shelling and were deprived of food, clean water, medicine and health care.
“For nine months, we ate nothing but boiled leaves; and we ate it with spoons, not even bread” Amer said. Amer was deprived of proper nutrition and medical care when he was mostly in need, recovering from three shrapnel wounds in his arm and leg. “I was rushed to the hospital by a group of men who found me hiding in a shop and shedding blood after a bombing hit our area” Amer told us; “the wounds in my arm were minor, but the wound in my leg was very deep, I had to undergo surgery.”
After living in the war for two and a half years, Amer and his family were finally able to leave with nothing but the clothes they had on. Before reaching the Jordanian borders, the family went through four failed attempts to escape the open-air prison.
Amer, together with his three sisters, mother and father, settled in with their relatives in tents in Za’atari Camp. “I did not go to school at first because we thought we will be going back to Syria in a month or two” Amer said. He eventually went to school, but not for long, “The kids at school used to call me names and I would get in trouble for beating them to defend myself” Amer added.
Amer’s tent was located right across the area the centre was opening in, he said “we heard that a new centre was opening where children can learn and play”, and signed up as soon as it opened. The centre is one of the four Multi-Activity Centres (MACs) in Za’atari Camp established by Save the Children and UNICEF. “I had nothing to do at that time, I did not go to school, and all I did was sit by our tent all day under the sun”, Amer said.
The MACs provide safe spaces for children by offering psychosocial support and life skills programmes which help children overcome past difficult experiences. Amer would spend most of his time in the MAC playing football with his new friends and attending HEART (Healing and Education through Arts) and Life Skills programmes as part of Save the Children’s psychosocial support sessions.
Through the offered programmes, Amer would share his memories and feelings, verbally or through arts, with his peers and teachers. This helped him adapt to his new life in the camp, make new friends, and recover from the dreadful years he lived.
His relation with the staff at the centre grew stronger as they helped him solve any problem he would face in the centre or outside. “Whenever I face a problem or get in trouble, the assistant here would sit with me and talk to me, he made me love school” he said. Amer now feels less isolated and more confident and secure, “I am now excited about going to school again because I know the staff from the centre will help me deal with any problem there”, Amer said.