The people and communities of Syria have been shattered by years of sectarian violence. Many elements of the country’s infrastructure have been destroyed, and relations between faiths have been poisoned by the religious nature of much of the violence. Many have left their homes, never to return.
For those who remain, what future can they hope for?
Thousands of Christian children have been taken by their families away from their homes and from everything they knew to a few, relatively ‘safe’ areas. These children are trying to make a new life in their new homes. But they are scared, they have lost hope and they see no future for themselves.
These children need our help. So far, we have helped over 2,200 of Syria's children!
Little Heroes is a mentoring programme for displaced and disadvantaged children, aged 6 to 12, in Syria.
It is for children of every denomination, and children of other faiths are always welcome. We work on building their well-being, self-esteem, resilience, and emotional health. The aims are:
Give them back some of their lost childhood;
Plant the seeds of love, trust and hope in them;
Help them to build bridges within their community; and
Empower them to overcome the great troubles they have faced.
The events offer the children a chance for them to discover their talents through arts & crafts, drama, music and sport. And our mentoring programme guarantees the most disadvantaged children a year-long individual mentoring programme, with each participating child receiving at least one hour a week of personal attention and support.
Little Heroes is unique. To our knowledge, no-one is offering a similar programme in Syria.
How does Little Heroes work?
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We choose the topics of each Little Heroes programme according to the needs of the children. In addition to basic essentials such as ‘Love and Tolerance’, and ‘Rejecting hatred and fear’, we address the concerns of the clergy and the families.
For instance, we learned that some of the children were terrified of God the Father because ‘Allah’, which is the name that all Arabic-speaking people call God, had developed a terrifying connotation due to the misuse of the phrase “Allahu Akbar!“ by jihadis. We worked to teach the children that God is Love and that they had nothing to fear from Him.
The educational methods have been chosen by our educators, including counsellors, to offer the children a wide range of stimulating and thought-provoking styles of both play and learning. For instance, art and handicraft activities give the children opportunities for self-expression; the sports, games and ‘adventure’ activities are designed to develop teamwork and allow the children a safe space within which to explore victory and defeat as well as practice sharing in the victories of others and commiserating with those who did not win; and gardening involves planting seeds - an allegorical lesson in growth and nurturing.
Making an Impact
Much of the real impact of our work takes place after an event, when the children share their experiences with their families, and they talk to their classmates and others in their community. The Little Heroes, feeling valued and inspired once more, have the courage to make new friends and grow to become little peacemakers. In this way, they build new bridges of respect and understanding with children of other faiths that they meet in their community. This encourages an attitude of reconciliation and a rebuilding of trust between the faiths.
Little Heroes, while Christian, is open to all. All local denominations take part; sadly, ecumenical activities are very rare in the Middle East due to a deep-seated mistrust between Christian denominations. However, even local Bishops have chosen to take part in Little Heroes to support the children.
In addition, every year, Muslim families send their children to Little Heroes. These children take full part in the activities and also receive counselling and support. The parents trust the Awareness Foundation, and they recognise that Little Heroes offers their children both a disciplined environment and a rare opportunity to interact with their Christian peers.
Without Little Heroes, the children receive no counselling and very little spiritual nourishment. Sunday Schools in Syria are vastly oversubscribed due to internal displacement, and mass emigration means that most Sunday School teachers have left. In this case, the children will remain traumatised and separated from God, and their possible positive impact on community harmony will be lost.
The programme is led by experienced educators, with the support of our local coordinator and her team of 30 locally-trained volunteers. Our programme is tailor-made by Syrians for the children of Syria.