In the News: NPR's All Things Considered visits Syrian refugees with Mercy Corps' child protection expert

Jordan, Lebanon, Syria

October 22, 2013

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    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Building playgrounds, like this one in Zaatari camp in Jordan, is just one of the ways we're helping Syrian refugee kids regain their childhood and cope with the trauma they've experienced. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

More than two million Syrians have fled their homes and found refuge in camps and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. An estimated two-thirds of these refugees are kids, many of whom have experienced unimaginable amounts of trauma and violence.

NPR’s All Things Considered recently highlighted Mercy Corps’ work to support these children, the youngest and some of the most vulnerable victims of the conflict.

Mercy Corps’ Regional Child Protection Advisor Alexandra Chen, a psychologist specializing in childhood trauma, spoke with NPR’s Deborah Amos about the importance of treating symptoms of trauma in Syrian children displaced by the conflict. She also described Mercy Corps programs that address the incredible unmet need for psychological care in refugee camps and host communities.

"All of the children have experienced trauma to varying degree," explained Chen, at a workshop she led for teachers, child psychologists and sports coaches who are working with the Syrian children scarred by war in their homeland.

"Acting aggressively, in many ways, is the mind's way of making sense of what happened before," she said, adding that she has seen behavior change. Many have made progress in a program run by Mercy Corps in a place called Dream Land.

Dream Land sits in the middle of Zaatari, the sprawling camp in Jordan's desert with more than 120,000 residents. Here they can play soccer or build sandcastles in soft sand under a large tent that protects them from the sun. Some play with Legos in nearby trailers, while others sit, quietly, watching Tom and Jerry cartoons.

"The fact that they can sit there for an hour of Tom and Jerry is quite remarkable" Chen remarked, calling it a sign of healing.

Learn more about Mercy Corps' work helping Syrian children in a Q+A with Chen ▸