By Jeetesh Maharjan
When they are supposed to be playing, they are forced to leave their homes. When they are supposed to be going to school, they are made to run for their lives. When they are supposed to be smiling, they are crying most days and instead of going to a family picnic, they are forced to make dangerous journeys. These refugee children are being forced to live a different life from other children. With conflict raging on around the world, the suffering keeps increasing for more children every single day. Millions of children are being affected by conflict and one cannot even imagine what these children are going through. The consequences of these conflicts on children are physical and psycho social; destroying their future and their dreams. The world is on the verge of losing a whole generation to war (a “lost generation”).
Every child has the right to a normal life, the right to education, the right to play and the right to smile. However, wars have forced them to leave their homes, leave their school and their dreams, travel dangerous journeys; via sea or land. Being orphaned, traveling alone, abused and exploited, or even die is what many experience every day. Is this what they deserve? Do we not have any responsibility? Are we just going to close our eyes and pretend that everything is alright?
We can all do something that will change the situation for these children. We at RIJ are working to support refugee children and their families. RIJ funds many projects that are specifically designed to support children to live a normal life; to ensure they are allowed their basic rights. `Kindergarten for Syrian refugees in Lebanon` and `Supporting Amity with Art in Turkey` are two projects in different countries that provide the right opportunities. The Kindergarten prepares Syrian refugee children to enter into Lebanese school in the future. This project allows them to study, to be a child, to make friends and have a sense of normality. This project focuses on building their physical as well as psycho social capacities. Similarly, the project in Turkey supported Syrian and Turkish children and youth to share through their arts, understand each other, understand cross-cultural experience, and most importantly provide them a sense of normality and a sense of community. This project also allowed these children and youth to express their emotions and dreams through art, and thus addressed their psycho social needs as well. War is a very scarring experience, and thus providing a sense of normality is as important as providing them with other assistance. Our funding provides both.
RIJ also believes that supporting children also means supporting their family, their mothers so that they can provide for their children. RIJ funds projects that target mothers and their children. An important issue for refugees living away from home, often in camps in foreign countries is health and hygiene. This affects the whole family but children are more vulnerable to disease. RIJ funds projects that provide baby kits and hygiene kits along with health education. `Prevention is better than cure` is absolutely important for everyone but it becomes more important for refugees. Refugees already have many socioeconomic issues and spending money on treatment is difficult. Thus, providing these kits and giving health education to mothers to encourage them to live a healthy life, empowers both women and children. RIJ-funded projects empower women and mothers so that they can pursue a dignified and economically independent lives for themselves and their families. `Women`s Literacy classes in Sudan` and `Empowerment and Sustainability for refugee women and Children` were two projects that RIJ funded to empower women. Both projects provided education, business skills and trainings like sewing and beading that gave women and mothers the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. This provides them with the skill they need to find jobs or create jobs and improve their socioeconomic lives wherever they are and this will allow them to ensure that their children can go to school, play and have a normal and dignified life. We are determined to fund many more projects to support children and their family.