A mother in Idlib: “I tell my children stories of superheroes and safe lands”

A family carrying a hygiene kit, including soap, plastic buckets, and detergent, distributed by CARE partner organisation IYD in northwest Syria (note: the mother and children pictured are not Sara and her family)

My daughter keeps asking, “Why don’t we have a normal life like all other children?”

In March 2018, a fierce offensive left Eastern Ghouta in rubble, with more than 1,000 people killed in only one month. Sara (name changed) is one of many thousands who fled to Idlib to save their lives. But as violence escalates day by day in the northwestern governorate, she and her children now find themselves in danger once again. She says:

“What we’re witnessing in Idlib today is similar to what we witnessed before in Ghouta. I have three children. My nine-year-old girl was injured in Ghouta and she gets scared the most when we hear the sound of bombs.” 

When the shelling gets close, she cries and she says how afraid she is that she will lose one of us. She worries that she will be left alone in this world.

Even though Sara’s daughter was not severely injured when they were in Ghouta, the psychological scars are apparent. The experience has left her stressed, constantly biting her nails. She has become very sensitive and when she gets scared, even from the slightest things, she wets herself. Sara says:

No matter how scared I am, I try to stay strong for her. I keep telling her that we will be safe and nothing can harm us.

Sara adds: “My younger son is only seven years old. He doesn’t get scared and often wants me to take him outside to play. Sometimes, when I don’t hear military aircraft flying overhead, I let them go outside and play in the open. I cannot always keep them inside. They can’t live in a prison.” 

Sara’s youngest girl is one and a half years old. Sara says:

She understands the sound of bombardment and can feel the tension around when something is happening. She cries when we have to run and I hold her tight in my arms to keep her safe.

“I always try to reassure them that we will stay safe and nothing will harm us. I hold my daughter and try to distract her, telling her imaginary stories of superheroes and safe lands.”

Sara is one the women who visits a CARE-supported centre in Idlib on a daily basis. The centre is run by Women Now for Development and is one of three centres that CARE supports in the governorate. It is located in the underground floor of a building to ensure the safety of participants in case of an emergency. 

In partnership with CARE, Women Now provides educational courses, vocational training, CV writing and literacy courses to Syrian women, aged 15 to 70. A special children’s corner helps mothers attend the courses with their children, while a dedicated member of staff looks after them. Over 2,100 women visited centre between April 2018 and March 2019.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.