Comic Book brings psycho-social support to displaced children in SyriaPublished: Sep 4, 2020 Reading time: 4 minutes
The Adventures of Khalil and Zahara – a PIN original story now read by thousands of children living in displacement camps in Northern Syria. A story of a brother and sister, this colourful comic reflects images of a family children can relate to while teaching them valuable lessons necessary for their daily lives. Living a life of displacement is difficult for children to cope with, especially with limited outlets for healthy play and creative expression. This comic book offers a chance for children to learn and practice reading while gaining a needed tool for psycho-social support they can bring home.
Options for a dignified way of living are limited in camps for internally displaced people (IDP). There are only rare opportunities for families to support themselves, to have a proper living space, or to provide a healthy and sustainable life for their children. In these camps, now scattered throughout war torn Syria, the chance to live a normal childhood is few and far between.
“The children here are in a situation of displacement, and this is an abnormal situation in which they live,” says Noha, 32-year-old widow and mother of five young children. “There are many children in the camp who have lost their parents, which makes them vulnerable.”
Noha lives in a tent in an IDP camp in Northern Syria devoid of the most basic elements of a decent life. She lost her husband a few years ago from a heart attack and says her children suffer from this loss, especially her second eldest, Ghadeer. “My father used to bring us cake, chips and sweets. But now, no one brings us anything,” says Ghadeer, 10, as she chases her crawling little brother around the tent.
Coping with the loss of a family member is difficult for any child, but especially so for displaced children as this common experience is coupled with the lack of proper psycho-social support or even proper kid-friendly entertainment. That’s why PIN, after directly noticing these common obstacles amongst children from within our Child Friendly Spaces we set up in camps, created a children’s comic book to provide some source of psycho-social support for children in dealing with their lives in the camp as well as a fun educational opportunity.
The comic book, titled The Adventures of Khalil and Zahara, addresses four common topics children in IDP camps face on a regular basis, but in a colorful, creative, and easily accessible and understandable way. Brother and sister living in a camp themselves, Khalil and Zahara together explore the importance of washing their hands to combat the spread of diseases, how to cope with the loss of a family member, the importance of education in maintaining a hopeful future, and what teamwork and cooperation mean.
“I miss my school a lot… I love school,” says Aysal, 12, Noha’s oldest daughter. “My father used to tell me to study, so that I can be a doctor when I grow up. I hope to be able to achieve my father's dream.”
Due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, education support have been closed for several weeks and are now on and off, further exacerbating the existing problem of proper education and entertainment for children. Aysal and her siblings spend their day mainly drawing - an activity they learned from their father and helps foster a closeness to his memory - or playing football out in an empty field in the camp.
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“I was very impressed with the drawings in the book,” says Ghadeer, who is in the third grade. She mentions how she misses playing games with her friends and teachers at the PIN’s Child Friendly Space in the camp, which was closed during a period of time due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Noha is grateful for PIN’s Child-Friendly Space and materials for psycho-social support activities to keep her children active, engaged, and imaginative; especially the new comic book, which they get to take home. “My children only have a few school materials and books,” she says, adding their limited accessibility to otherfF forms of non-formal education or entertainment.
This comic book is a fun way for children ages 4-15 to practice reading or listening to their parents read to them about topics important to their everyday life. Seeing images of children who look and live like them gives them a sense of support and validation. Moreover, being something they can physically hold and bring home to their families, The Adventures of Khalil and Zahara has the ability to give children a sense of ownership, a spark of creativity and a joy for reading.
In June, nearly 1,900 copies were distributed throughout the camp that Noha and her family live in. “I want to thank the efforts for this care and interest in the children of the camp,” Noha expresses. “This makes us feel that we are not alone.”