“I am the Hero of My Own Life” Success Stories from JRS Syria

30 May 2024|JRS Syria

In Syria, JRS accompanies refugees, internally displaced people, and returnees as they navigate the multi-faceted challenges of being forced to flee or returning home. Recently, two children in JRS’s program shared their stories and how being able to attend school has changed their lives. Today, we are honored to share the stories of Ali* and Samia*.

Ali and his family were forced to return to their home in Syria after being displaced during the war. His father suffers from a chronic liver condition that requires regular, expensive medical care, and his mother works as a housekeeper but does not earn enough to support the family.

The living conditions in Ali’s house are poor. On a home visit, the JRS Syria team observed a lack of furniture: The family has only mattress pads to sleep on. There is also little ventilation, and given the high humidity in the region, family members frequently suffer from upper respiratory diseases.

Upon returning to Syria when he was 10 years old, Ali began participating in JRS Syria’s educational and youth empowerment programs. Despite the ever-present smile on his face, Ali initially would not speak to or engage with anyone at the JRS Life & Education Center.

When he arrived, several students tried to befriend him, but he avoided their attempts at conversation. When he did raise his hand to answer a question in class, he would often stutter and mispronounce his words. These experiences further undermined his confidence.

“Everyone makes fun of me,” Ali told his tutors. Upon noticing these challenges, JRS assigned Ali a case manager, tutors, speech therapists, and a mental health and psychosocial support specialist to determine the underlying causes of his difficulties and to develop a course of action.

Ali felt heard by the JRS Syria team, and he began making great progress. He started by saying a few simple words in front of his class. Although he still felt shy, these were the first steps towards significant change. His comfort and self-esteem began to grow.

“I can do anything now,” Ali told his tutors. His hard work paid off, and he experienced a breakthrough with his peers. “I am very happy because it’s the first time I speak, and my friends listen to me,” he said.

“I am the hero of my own life,” Ali declared.

I can do anything now...I am very happy because it's the first time I speak, and my friends listen to me,
Ali*

Samia is a 6-year-old girl who has experienced extreme difficulty in her short life. She now lives with her mother, aunts, and grandfather after her father became abusive towards her and her mother.  

These home experiences, compounded by the challenges of displacement, damaged Samia’s mental and emotional well-being. When she arrived at the JRS Life and Education Center, the staff reported that she had a “sad, frightened look.” She did not interact with her peers and was years behind in educational development. As with Ali, JRS intervened upon noticing these challenges.

Samia began working with a social worker and a mental health specialist, and she made progress quickly. Although still tentative, she began to smile more often and speak briefly with her peers.

Her social worker also consulted Samia’s mother to offer support and strategies for positive parenting. After each session, JRS staff would meet with both Samia and her mother to provide encouragement. 

Samia’s mother began fostering her daughter’s participation in activities like going to the mosque with a group of other children. Samia has since expressed a newfound enthusiasm for learning, and her mother has reported positive changes in Samia’s behavior at home.

Ali and Samia’s stories are a testament to the importance of supporting children in situations of displacement. JRS programs meet the complex needs of young people in Syria and will continue as long as needed. Learn more about these programs and consider making a gift today to help other children like Ali and Samia. 

*Names changed to protect safety and anonymity.