Your support is needed.
Simply said, one third of the Syrian population (seven million people) have been displaced by the war. Those who have left Syria as refugees now exceeds 2 million. Some 2 million Syrian children have been displaced by the war and more than 1 million of them are now refugees in neighboring countries. These children have seen horrible things, like bombings and people dying and screaming, and they know the smell of death, blood and smoke. For them, to be connected to the world feels very dangerous. It is very clear to everyone that all of the children have experienced trauma. A whole generation of children are at risk of becoming a lost generation with unhealed trauma fueling future violence.
With the immensity of need in the region, there are virtually no treatment services for trauma in the region. As example, all of Jordan only has four psychiatrists and six licensed psychologists. That is why Steve Olweean and myself are co-directing the Social Health Care Program (SHC), a collaborative training and services model to increase support and eventually skilled trauma informed treatment services for the refugees, particularly children. We project being able to train several hundred professionals, students, volunteers, and NGO staff per year through virtual classes and direct trainings in the region. As the skills increase in the region, SHC will offer crisis intervention, support and skills groups, and trauma counseling/healing services. All training and services being offered are free. Due to growing partnerships, services are also being established in Lebanon and Turkey as well. For more info, read about SHC.
Your support is needed. Please consider a donation to aid in these efforts. Donations as low as dollar can be made and helps. Please make a donation now: Every dollar helps cover the costs supporting free trauma treatment and free training in trauma informed care to students/volunteers in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon as well as refugees themselves.
Journey in Jordan, October – November 2013
I have been home now for three days, but my heart and mind are filled with images of our work with Syrian refugee children and families throughout Jordan. There are no words to truly describe or do justice to the depth of the humanitarian crisis. Every night the refugee children visit my dreams.
When I left, I could not have imagined myself dressed as a clown with others of the Patch Adams group going to Zataari, the largest refugee camp of 140,000. I could not have imagined sitting on the bus with Carl Hammerschlag who’s work had been an inspiration to me decades ago. I had read his books on his transformation as a Jewish psychiatrist while working with Native Americans in the southwest multiple times and felt he was someone whohas a profound understanding of what brings healing to people. He also had attended my training at the International Transgenerational Trauma Conference in Amman where I taught about the importance of place in healing and peace work. He says to me on this bus as we are traveling to the camps : “This is your opportunity to be the Sacred Clown as healer.” I understood he was saying that this was another way to express the healing power of Spirit.
When we arrive in Zataari, it is a sandstorm dustbowl. My eyes stung from the dirt in the air. UN tents that the people lived in flapped loudly. In the distance there were sand devils, little sand tornadoes swirling across the landscape. I don’t know how anyone could live here.
Native people often talk of violence as a spiritual intrusion that a person takes on. It becomes the means by which trauma is transmitted.
This showed itself over and over again as I worked with children and families:
- At the Zataari refugee camp: the children are either very wild and aggressive or extremely fearful.
I kept finding children who separated from everyone. They would be crying or sucking their thumbs. I would find ways to engage them, sneak in some healing work, and eventually get them to laugh. After a while, they would join the other children to play.
- At Mafrac City, a large group of orphans and children whose fathers have been killed in the civil war in Syria, I see a boy who is withdrawn (and sucking his thumb). I make him laugh as I put my jester hat on his head and put a clown’s nose on his nose. I let him wear the hat as he is just beaming. After a while, one of the other boys starts hitting him and takes the hat from him. I intervene by grabbing the boy that is hitting. I turn him around and just hold him.I can feel him melting into me, a phenomenon that I would experience over and over again with the fatherless children. I give the hat back to the boy that I had allowed to wear it. Later the boy that I held came back to me to apologize and asked if there was anything he could do for me.A refrain I would say many times to the boys apologizing for their aggressive behavior and asking how they could make amends with me, “I only ask that what you love in your heart be far greater than the fire that lives in your belly.”
- We bus into a neighborhood where many refugees have settled in Mafrac City. The buildings are like bombed out buildings of crumbling concrete and no windows. The clowns are split into groups of three with one translator to visit with families in the buildings.
The room we enter is barren except for a few mats on the floor for sleeping. Three young girls and a boy live here with their mother in this room. The most sad looking and frightened girl sits in front of me while one of the clowns does magic tricks and just leans into me for comfort. I just want to hold her for hours, but we are gathered up after a half hour and told we must go on the bus.
As we go out, everyone is on the streets and its crowded as everyone has come to see the clowns. Some of us don’t want to leave, but we’re told we are behind schedule. As I sit by a window, one teen comes up and puts his fits full force into the window. The children are upset that we are leaving. One young boy throws a rock at the bus and the next thing you know, everyone is throwing stones at the bus and then shaking and climbing on the bus to keep us there.
With some strategic distraction, we are able to get out. This occurs two other times during our visits. The physical outbursts of the young children is constant wherever we go.
- Meetings with families to hear their trauma stories.It is a repetitive process of the refugees not wanting pictures because of fear that the regime will see the pictures and hunt down their family members that are still in Syria. Repeatedly they show pictures of killed loved ones or videos of protestors being machine gun down. There is fear in the eyes of everyone as they share and the despair fills the room. The pictures are extremely graphic. They express high regard for the U.S. and ask that I tell John Kerry to do something to stop the war so he’ll tell Obama.And no matter where we went, we are offered tea/coffee though all of us know that they have little food. The standard UN food rations only covers three weeks out of four each month. Your support is needed. Please consider a donation to aid in these efforts. Donations as low as dollar can be made and helps.
I want to end with the words of a song that I listened to everyday to soothe my soul while in Jordan:
Hear My Prayer
by Maya Brennan
Hear my prayer
Bring me through the darkness, hear my heart
Draw me in
On this bright , new morning.
Here I am, stay with me
Never too late to forgive
Here I am, set me free
Angels walk with me
Guide me to the water’s edge
Wash away my doubts, my fears
Lord, strengthen me and bring me back to you
With a gentle touch you change my world
Hold me close
Fill my life with beauty
Hear my voice, stay with me
Bring cool water to my lips
Hear my prayer, set me free
Angels walk with me
Guide me to the water’s edge
Wash away my doubts, my fears
Lord, strengthen me and bring me back to you.