04 Jun 2014

ACTED - Friendlier camps for all

When Alam was born, he was deprived of oxygen, and the doctors insisted that he wouldn’t live past his first few months. 9 years later, and Alam struggles to walk, gasps for air when he speaks, but couldn’t wipe the smile off his face if he tried.

Alam is one of many children with disabilities who attend the Child and Youth Friendly Spaces that ACTED, with support from UNICEF, runs in Darashakran and Qushtapa Syrian refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan.Having fled Syria to Darashakran Refugee Camp in Erbil governorate in early February 2014, he used to spend his days being home-schooled by his mother. Recently enrolled in Grade 2 at school, Alam is now able to continue with his favourite subjects; maths and writing, in a more structured environment. In the Child Friendly Space, which he attends outside of the short school hours on offer in the camp, he prefers to spend his time learning about computers, which bodes well for his dream of becoming a computer engineer. It isn’t all maths and computers for Alam though, because he loves playing football in the Space and dreaming of his heroes from both F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Since joining the UNICEF-funded Child Friendly Space two days ago, Alam has already made two friends. At the rate of one friend a day, soon he’ll be the most popular boy around, and we can only hope that his smile will be infectious.

Throughout its child protection activities in the Iraqi Kurdistan, ACTED strives to be as inclusive as possible. Ranging from access to spaces for children with disabilities, sign-language classes for children with hearing impairments, and hiring parents of children with disabilities in the camps to help provide them with a source of income, ACTED is aiming to make Iraqi Kurdistan’s refugee camps safe spaces for all.A safe space is exactly what Parveen needed after her displacement from Syria resulted in bursts of anger, interspersed with long periods of introversion. At 8 years old, she shies away from the camera. Wearing a denim dress with bright pink leggings peeking out from underneath, a cheeky smile appears when she asks ACTED staff whether she can have a biscuit, because she missed the hand-outs.

Parveen loves being able to use the computer in the Space, because it allows her to communicate and send messages to her brother, who lives abroad and whom she misses terribly.

When she’s not studying, Parveen can frequently been seen hula hooping the day away and doing aerobics. Yet, if she could, Parveen would spend every second drawing, as it allows her to feel free – only limited by the far horizons of her own creativity - and dream of the day when she’s grown up to be an artist.

ACTED is continuing its efforts to protect the rights of Syrian refugee children, and keep their dreams alive.
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