Learn to Live: How UK aid money helps Syrian refugee children living in Jordan

Programmes for Syrian refugees in exile, part funded by UK aid money, are helping children get back on their feet

Naomi Ackerman
Thursday 04 October 2018 15:27 BST
War Child: 17-year-old Syrian refugee Thaer showcases rapping skills following youth empowerment scheme

Syrian child refugees have revealed the horror of growing up in a war zone and the daily struggles they now face living as refugees in Jordan.

Millions of pounds in aid money from governments across the globe is earmarked to help children left homeless and stateless by the protracted Syrian civil war. This includes funds from the Department for International Development (Dfid), which supports projects run by charities such as Unicef.

Projects such as our Learn to Live campaign, in partnership with War Child – which hopes to increase understanding between pupils by twinning schools – aim to highlight the need for further donations.

Today, Syrian children in Jordan either live restricted lives in refugee camps or struggle to survive in cities.

Muath, 14, tells The Independent how he missed school for years to work for just three Jordanian dinars per day – the equivalent of £2.70 – lifting heavy boxes in a supermarket. He was hit and verbally abused by locals who resented him allegedly undercutting their wages.

Muath’s mother says he was able to return to school after a project part-funded by Dfid gave the family a loan to help her start a small business.

Dallal, 12, describes the horror of seeing her father beaten in front of her eyes during their night-time escape from Damascus.

A carpenter, he can now work only half days, returning home in agony at lunchtime; his daughter knows how his leg tendons were torn when President Bashar al-Assad’s forces beat him in a “dark room filled with blood”.

Dallal’s family live in two rooms in a cramped basement apartment in the Jordanian capital Amman and they can barely afford to eat. She has been given hope in the form of English lessons and safe play areas provided by a local charity that is funded by UK aid.

Sadiq Khan calls on all Londoners to get behind Learn to Live campaign

Her mother Noha, 27, reveals the transformative effect the programme has had on her eldest daughter. “She started thinking differently, she started having dreams,” she says.

Dallal, who wants to travel the world, says: “I believe that someday we are going to go back to Syria, and once we do we will tell the world about how good the people who hosted us were.”

Aya, 16, does all the housework for her family because her mother is still waiting for surgery to treat injuries she sustained from bomb shrapnel.

She lost six years of her education, beginning when her school in Damascus was bombed and it became too dangerous to leave the house. Now she attends daily classes run by Unicef.

Thaer, 17, fled bombing in Homs in 2013 and worked in a tailor’s shop and a sanitation station to support his seven-person family.

Through the UK-funded International Medical Corps providing counselling, art therapy and a youth empowerment programme, he has developed “hidden skills” in writing and rap and is now “proud” to work with Unicef, helping fight for girls’ rights and preventing child marriage.

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