There will be as many as four million Syrian refugees in the Middle East by the end of 2014, along with another 6.5 million internally displaced persons in Syria because of the violence occurring there. This is one of the largest refugee crises in recent times and representatives of The Fathers Table Foundation recently travelled to Jordan and Turkey to get a firsthand view of the situation. There we saw projects which provided health care, education, food, shelter, and social and legal services to the refugees who have crossed the Syrian border into their countries.
In both countries, more than half of the refugees are under the age of 18. Public schools are overcrowded, and the enrollment process is long and difficult for the Syrians. Many of the children have not had any formal education for several years because of the violence which often leaves severe psychological scars. CRS, along with their partners, Caritas, International Blue Crescent, and No Strings International provide varied programs to help the children. Some students attend catch-up classes to learn the skills necessary to enter public schools at their age level. Others receive tutoring in math and English, which helps them enter and excel in their new schools. These informal schools provide much-needed social outlets and access to professional psychological support to help them deal with the traumas they have experienced.
One of the most effective programs is providing child friendly spaces which are staffed by professionals and volunteers who have been trained to help the children. No Strings International recently produced two puppetry films on trauma resiliency and peace building to be used with Syrian children. These films generate discussion and allow the children to work out their emotions. Staff members have also been trained in the creation and use of puppetry techniques to help the children verbalize the issues they are living with.