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I recently visited refugee families in northern Jordan who are receiving mattresses, blankets and heaters in preparation for winter. This time, the Mercy Corps team also brought toys for the children, thanks to a donation we recently received from Hasbro.
It's amazing what something as simple as a stuffed animal or ball can do for a kid. Their faces lit up when they received the toys — for many, the first thing they've had to play with since leaving their homes behind in war-torn Syria.
Their smiles made me think about what children have in common all around the world: optimism, curiosity, joy. Even in such tragic circumstances, the kids I've met have such a natural inclination toward hope that they focus on what brings them happiness. And I hope we can help them hold on to that.
So after we handed out toys, I spent time with the children and asked each of them: What makes you happy?
Scroll through their portraits above to see their answers.
Every child deals with the conflict in his or her own way. But when it came to this question, I kept hearing the same things: family, playing, toys, and most of all, school.
The majority of Syrian refugee children are not able to attend school in Jordan, for various reasons. I find myself wishing I could build schools for them, hire passionate teachers and arrange bus transportation to get them there.
Briksam, shy with a sweetness that breaks my heart, loves school so much that even studying for tests is one of her favorite things to do. But her family cannot find a school to enroll her.
Ali, in his glasses, reminds me of my older brother when he was a kid, and I wonder if he'd like Star Trek as much as my brother does. When I met him, he missed Syria but was excited to finally start school in a few days. I hope he's enjoying it and making friends.
All of these kids deserve an education.
In their foreign homes, in areas that are not always hospitable to refugees, Syrian children have struggles beyond the conflict they left behind. I am saddened by the losses these sweet youngsters have had to endure. But I am awestruck by their fortitude.
It is moving to see them playing with new toys, relishing playgrounds with friends, using their imaginations to read and draw — and to know that we are helping them enjoy a childhood that should not be lost.
How you can help
Learn more about how we're protecting Syria's children. Share these photos and stories to raise awareness and support for a generation that needs our help to recover.
You can help us build playgrounds, lead educational activities and provide support and protection that gives Syrian children hope for the future. Donate today ▸