REMARKABLE PROGRESS FOR TRAUMATISED CHILDREN
The recently launched Cultural Heritage and Interactive Learning Development (CHILD) Centre is an alternative learning facility for Syrian refugee children without other access to education. The students are making remarkable progress, with children who were broken, traumatised, and fearful becoming happy, thriving learners.
The CHILD Centre, set up by SAT-7 in collaboration with on-the-ground non-governmental organisation (NGO) Biladi, is located in the mountains of Lebanon. The centre launched in November 2017 and in a short time has witnessed some astounding changes.
PROGRESS IN BEHAVIOUR
“I am impressed by the behavioural changes,” says Nicoletta Michael, SAT-7’s Project Manager. Although the children had always been excited to go to the centre, they were initially unfocused and restless, due to being uncertain of their surroundings, and because most of them had never gone to school before. “Now, they are eager to learn and accept what the teacher says. They trust the teachers now, because they feel safe.”
The staff initially found it challenging to help the children adjust to the environment and to go from running around and playing, to sitting in a classroom and concentrating. But SAT-7’s programs helped to grab the children’s attention, enabling them to begin learning through songs and entertaining teaching segments.
IMPROVING HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Many children at the centre have physical or mental health problems, or suffer from disability. Some have learning difficulties caused by trauma. As well as providing educational benefits, the centre is improving the children’s health. They receive two healthy meals a day, and the facility has an on-site nurse. Staff have also helped parents access further medical care when needed.
Thanks to the centre’s support, the children are healthier and happier than when they first arrived. “Even the bus driver tells us how happy the children are to come to the centre,” says Joanne Bajjali, Biladi’s founder. “Some children wanted to come even while suffering from flu. The bus driver would tell them, ‘You are sick, you must stay home!’ but they don’t want to miss a day.”
When the centre first launched, the children were worried that they would not be able to attend permanently. Bajjali describes how the children would ask the bus driver if he was coming back the next day and beg him not to forget them.
The centre is equipped with a learning disorder specialist who works closely with the teachers on how to deal with kids needing special care. One little girl was particularly struggling when she arrived at the centre. Initially, she did not speak, eat, participate in the classroom, or play with the other children. With gentle patience from the staff, the child has been making slow but steady progress. She is now eating, drawing, and participating in class.
“In such a short time we have witnessed the impact that SAT-7 ACADEMY programs are having on these children,” says Bajjali. “These children are so vulnerable, so hurt and traumatised. Imagine the impact it will have on people who haven’t endured as much suffering as these children, who haven’t been through war, and who haven’t been face-to-face with death! These programs can be used by everybody, for everybody!”