One book’s journey to Syria

We often hear that a book can change your life. The right book, in the right hands, can change many lives. We were recently reminded of that fact when we were contacted about our book, Making It Better: Activities for Children Living in a Stressful World by Barbara Oehlberg.

This book has helped teachers and students across the country, but we were touched by the story that came to us about this book’s journey to a place far away from the normal classroom. A place where children and their families have been displaced from their homes. Where violence surrounds them and their country is in collapse. A country that has been at war for years—Syria.

Beryl Cheal, CEO of Disaster Training International and a former teacher and author that we have had the pleasure of working with in the past, recently traveled to Jordan as part of her volunteer work with Salaam Cultural Museum, where she worked with young refugees who have escaped Syria.

My house is burning

Children can work through trauma using art and play, just as this boy expresses his memories of his home burning. [Photo courtesy of Beryl Cheal ; taken in Jordan during work with SCM]

She knows “that children are some of the most vulnerable groups in war and the trauma they experience can affect their physical and mental health for the rest of their lives.” The children in thse photos have survived not only war and violence, but also the trauma of fleeing their homes and living as a refugee. Play Therapy programs are designed to help these amazing young survivors heal.

In such places as in these photos, there are still those that hold out hope for a bright future and see the children as the key to that path. Syria Bright Future is one of those organizations, and through Beryl they contacted us about using Making It Better as part of their program to help the youngest survivors of war heal using play therapy.

Mohammed and face plate

Art therapy helps children use their imagination and work through and understand their emotions during traumatic experiences. [Photo courtesy of Beryl Cheal; taken in Jordan during her work with SCM]


Play therapy

Play therapy [Photo courtesy of Beryl Cheal; taken in Jordan during her work with SCM]

This amazing group of people working with Seattle Cultural Museum, Syria Bright Future are working in the refugee camps of Syria and the surrounding areas. They work directly with the survivors and are training others to do this work, including psychological first aid, building effective communication skills, and support groups for stress management and mental well-being. As Beryl experienced first hand, “a children’s center provides noisy and quiet games and activities that will help children relieve their stress; grieve losses they may have experienced; learn to identify and express their emotions in a safe place; develop and practice creative problem solving and conflict resolution skills; practice being adults; create images which they can destroy and rebuild again; or create stories with happy endings. The basic philosophy of a program is that children can heal through play.”

Counting the camels

Group time lets these children spend quality time together having fun. [Photo courtesy of Beryl Cheal; taken in Jordan during her work with SCM]

Can I read it

Children gather to share a familiar folk tale. [Photo courtesy of Beryl Cheal; taken in Jordan during her work with SCM]

Experts, such as Beryl Cheal, who work with trauma victims “know that when traumatized children receive appropriate services and caring, they can heal.” The work being done by Syria Bright Future, Seattle Cultural Museum, and other organizations will help these children adapt to the difficult circumstances they are facing and thrive to create a brighter future for themselves and Syria.

One book has made but a small difference. What the team needs now are more resources and the most up-to-date materials for working with children facing trauma. If you have any recommendations, please contact us and we will be sure to pass the information on to the teams we have met.

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One Response to One book’s journey to Syria

  1. Beth Koskie says:

    Thanks for sharing this, to raise awareness of how refugee children can be helped to deal with horrors of war.

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