Healing, Resilience and Preventing Extremism among war-affected children in Jordan and Lebanon

THRH and YAVAP Training in Jordan

THRH and YAVAP Training in Jordan

Mafraq School, Mafraq

In the Summer of 2017, 204 of the most vulnerable and at risk children and youth from Syria and Jordan graduated from IAHV’s intense 5-day Trauma-Relief, Healing and Human Values Trainings. 60 Syrian and Jordanian youth consequently became Youth Anti-Violence and Peace Ambassadors empowered to prevent and reduce violence in their schools and communities.

The participants, their supervisors as well as IAHV’s trainers all noticed a huge shift in the wellbeing, attitude and behaviour of the children. Children who lacked self-esteem, isolated themselves, displayed aggressive behaviour, or suffered from anxiety, depression and PTSD, gradually opened up, engaged with the training program, became more positive and enthusiastic, and experienced relief from long term traumas. Shy and reclusive children transformed into effective leaders taking responsibility for peace projects in their schools and communities. Conflicts and fights between different groups of children transformed into increased understanding, acceptance and joint singing, dancing and celebration.

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Symptomatic participants experienced a 25.92% decrease in anxiety levels, a 25.46% decrease in depression levels, a 36.41% decrease in PTSD levels, a 40.61% decrease in sleeping problems, and a 44.19% decrease in feeling hopeless about the future upon completing THRH and/or YAVAP trainings.

Based on the THRH participants’ testimonials, the trainers’ observations, the feedback of the referring organisations and the evaluation forms, the THRH trainings reduced depression, anxiety, PTSD and violent behavior and improved the participants’ sense of safety, positive emotions, self-esteem, outlook and coping mechanisms. The testimonials of the THRH participants speak of the reduction in their stress levels, anxiety and tendencies for violent behavior throughout the program, and of being able to control their reactions to fight with other participants. They also mention their increased positive outlook on life and sense of hope.

Partner organisations who had referred their most vulnerable children to the IAHV trainings gave very positive feedback and observed among their children increased self-confidence, restored optimism and hope towards the future, reduced violence, more calmness, increased school participation, and a new sense of togetherness among Jordanian and Syrian children who used to separate themselves before.

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Stories from the Trainings (YAVAP Girls):

A 14-year-old Syrian who is living with conservative parents

On the first day she cried, because her parents push her to be perfect, but she cannot: “I cannot get 100% on exams, only 98. If you ask me to dance, I won’t, because I know I will fail. If you ask me to sing, I cannot, because I won’t know word by word what the lyrics are.”

Afraid of failure, she refused to try while other girls were singing. For the last night of the training, she asked her parents if she could stay the night. After receiving permission, she packed her stuff and strutted happily the next day. That night, after learning that you need to live the moment as it comes, she got up to dance.

First she was scared, but when she saw the encouragement from everyone around her, the clapping and the smiles, she let loose.

It was her first time dancing, ever. She didn’t know what to do with her body, hips, hands and legs, but she didn’t care. She just moved, laughed and shook with happiness, saying she finally felt free.

A 16-year-old Jordanian orphan

Very athletic and energetic, but constantly running around and very hyper. When you see her, you see pure confidence, but when you get closer, she pushes you aside.

As the days went by, her tough act was dropped and her vulnerable side showed. After getting into a fight with one of the other girls, she stood for 10 minutes choking on her apology.

Upon finally saying it, she collapsed, crying, repeating the words “I’m sorry”. That same night, she interacted more with the girls. Before, the girls would blast music and dance each night, but she would shrug and tell us it wasn’t her thing.

That night, however, she joined in, stood front line, and danced like she has never done before.

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A 16 year old, very conservative and quiet Syrian refugee girl

Her parents wanted her to benefit fully from the experience and to stay all nights at the camp in order to increase her confidence, so she was the only Syrian present at night.

The first night around the bonfire she was scared, looking at everyone clapping and singing and having a good time. When we asked her what her favorite song was, so we could sing it for her to enjoy, she blankly stared back and whispered: “I don’t know any music, all I know is the Quran.” That same night, she slept with her hijab on, scared of judgement and punishment if she would let go.

Each day and after every session, her voice was getting louder. By the last day, she was sharing opinions and her voice was being heard.

At the last bonfire, she played the Arabic drums herself, banging on them enthusiastically, urging everyone to sing so she could try to follow their rhythm. After watching a film about overcoming obstacles and knowing your true talents, she was the first one to comment, loudly, saying: “Life throws many challenges your way, and it is up to you to take it, and turn it into something productive.”

Testimonials

“We used to hit each other. Now we talk to each other.”

YAVAP graduate, Menshieh

“My students have become much better. They participate better and like the music lessons. They used to hit each other but that does not happen now anymore."

Teacher, Menshieh

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“I saw my father die in Syria. But I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t move on. I tricked myself into thinking he’s still alive, I convinced myself he was just away and coming back. After the training I acknowledged what happened to my father. I accepted his death and I was okay with it.”

THRH Participant, Jarash

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Very early on in the trainings, a sense of connectedness was established among the youth from different regions, nationalities and backgrounds, as well as between the youth and their supervisors, trainers and communities, which has lasted till now.

“When I’m in the classroom with the trainers, I feel like I belong to them, I’m not a student, they’re not teachers, we all belong to each other … When we first began the training, I felt like everyone just wanted to provoke each other. This person wants to fight with this person while this other person is making fun of anyone who participates. Everyone had an ego, but after the breathing and the games and the sleepovers, everyone was on the same level. Me and the rest of the kids started making friends, we started supporting each other and cheering for one another in the group activities and games. By the end, we were all one family. We all cared for one another, including the trainers. We didn’t judge each other anymore."

THRH Participant, Jarash

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Participants often mention an increase in their self-confidence. Allowing participants to lead exercises and eventually their own community peace projects proved to be a successful method to ensure their confidence and ability to take responsibility within their own schools, homes, and communities.

"I used to be so insecure because of my glass eye. I couldn’t even look people in the eye when they were talking to me. I always looked down. After working with IAHV, I’m no longer embarrassed of my eye. I’m proud of who I am. Not only am I proud, I appreciate everyone for their own stories and struggles rather than their looks and what they have."

Volunteer, Zaatari Refugee Camp

Most participants feel that the IAHV training provides a safe space, one where participants are encouraged to express themselves without consequence, to foster a space where they are comfortable.

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“I feel like we entered a ‘room of Peace’ when we enter the training. You release all the bad energy and return happy to your house when you finish the training”.

Peace Ambassador, Zarqa

SOS Village - Success Story

The SOS children used to live isolated, not interacting much with society, distrusted and distrusting. In the SOS village in Amman, each house was more or less like a gang stronghold, but since they participated in IAHV programs there has been a big positive change in the relationships within the village. After the YAVAP training, the youth from different houses started meeting and studying together. Youth who were enemies before are now together, there is more brotherhood and no more problems.

"When there is a problem among them, they are now less aggressive than before. There is a much more positive connection among them.”

SOS Manager

“I used to be very stubborn, but now I am listening more and accepting others more. I hated socialising before, but now I have many friends. I never made so many friends in such a short time!”

YAVAP graduate, SOS

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One of the biggest successes for SOS working with IAHV, was the change in the personalities that they observed in their children. It was the first time that their children started mixing and interacting with other youth. They lost their shyness and inhibitions, did not feel embarrassed and expressed their emotions freely. They are now motivated from inside. The management was (positively) shocked with the changes they observed.

A 16-year-old orphan living in the SOS villages

People around her claimed she was very violent and aggressive. Her supervisor stated that once she is triggered, she is like an ‘untamed bull’. 6 years ago, her father, not sober, beat her mother to death in front of her, and turned himself in. Ever since then, any threatening situation triggers those memories and she attacks. A little comment from a friend at camp triggered her anger and she lashed out and scratched her face. After sitting and talking, she mentioned the techniques of the training and calmed down, saying:

“In these few days, I have learned to forgive my father, and move on with my life. Life goes on, and if you don’t move with it, your memories will suffocate you. I forgive him, I forgive my friend. Life is too short.”

When the SOS children started visiting cancer hospitals as part of their YAVAP project, the boys all decided to shave their heads as a sign of solidarity and empathy with the cancer patients. For these boys, for whom the haircut is a very important aspect of their outlook and personality, this was a very new and strong message of empathy with others, which was coming from their hearts.

“Normally our children think in the first place about themselves when there is money involved. Now, when they started thinking about the project, it was the first time they thought about others in the first place, such as the cancer patients.” 

SOS manager

 

 

THRH and YAVAP Training in Lebanon
Peacebuilding Projects & Community Activities
Professional Care Training
Training of Trainers
Healing, Resilience and Empowerment Training
Stress Relief and Resilience Workshops

IAHV programs have had a huge impact in Menshieh, on personal lives, work, homes and the community as a whole. You have changed the mentality of this community. It created brotherhood among the communities here. The violence among the children has reduced. They smile more, are more relaxed and more motivated. Now there is friendliness without fighting.

First through the football matches, this project created familiarity, what was needed. The local community came together because of this project. Syrians started coming to our community center. We convinced the parents to allow their children to develop their talents in music and art. It created bridges of trust.

Mayor of Menshieh, Mafraq

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Co-funded by the European Union

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Implemented by Crossarts and IAHV

These project pages are created and maintained with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of IAHV and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.