HOMS, Syrian Arab Republic, 18 June 2013 – A recently rehabilitated centre in a relatively quiet neighbourhood in Homs City is abuzz. Report by: Alma Hassoun
An adolescent-friendly centre in Homs, Syrian Arab Republic, proves a popular retreat for the adolescents who frequent the centre and its young volunteers, alike.
|© UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2013|
|A group of Syrian youth at a centre in Homs, Syrian Arab Republic. The UNICEF-supported facility provides a space for adolescents to learn useful skills such as English and computer literacy and how to remain safe in case of attack.|
In a room upstairs, a group of girls are learning basic computer skills. Further down the hall, a young facilitator is splitting a group of boys aged 16–17 into two groups and asking them to find original ways to introduce newcomers to the team.
Learning life skills
This centre is one of two run by a local NGO and supported by UNICEF. It hosts an adolescent-friendly space where teenagers learn such skills as computers, English and how to remain safe in case of fire or a mortar attack.
Rami*, 16, has just passed his Grade 10 exam. He is attending a session on the concept of leadership. Before conflict reached his neighbourhood, Rami spent his summer days playing football with his friends for hours on end. Now, just like his peers, he is not allowed outdoors after sunset. “We got ‘immunized’ against what is happening around us, but our parents can’t stop being worried all the time,” he says, to loud laughter from his peers.
Rami is happy hanging out at the centre and acquiring new skills. “If I knew that people my age can learn these skills, I would have joined similar courses before. I did not think that life skills can be learned in courses.”
The centre has proven popular with adolescents in Homs, particularly in areas with large numbers of internally displaced persons. Since its launch less than two months ago, the centre has seen more than 1,000 adolescent boys and girls enrol in its various activities.
The trainers, themselves, are young – no more than 21–22 years old. Most of them are university students determined to help make a difference in the lives of others.
“We want to help our society during the crisis, says Luay, a 21-year-volunteer. “Leaving adolescents without any guidance at such time is neither good for them nor for society as a whole. It is our responsibility to help them in these difficult times.”
Before they could join the centre as facilitators, a total of 65 volunteers in Homs took part in a two-week course supported by UNICEF. They are now keen to set up smaller mobile teams who will transfer these skills to adolescents in shelters for displaced persons throughout the province of Homs.
“What touched me most was the positive attitude and enthusiasm of those young volunteers,” says Nibal Qaddoura, a UNICEF staff member working on Adolescent Development and Participation. “In spite of the hard conditions they and their families are going through, they are eager to learn new skills and share their knowledge with others.”
Aisha, a 22 year-old university student, is one such volunteer. Her father died two months ago as a result of the ongoing conflict, and she now lives with her mother and siblings in an occasionally restive area in Homs. The family can’t afford to move to a safer location. Aisha taught kindergarten for one year. But, when families started fleeing her neighbourhood, the school closed down, and she lost her job.
Volunteering at the adolescent-friendly space has helped her deal with her own personal issues. “I have benefitted from the skills I learned on a personal level,” she says. “Our painful experience should be our motive to work more – and I am determined to support adolescent girls who have fewer chances in Homs.”
*Names of children and volunteers have been changed.