Zaina*, a 12-year-old little girl, was sitting next to her mother, watching her sign papers she couldn’t read. With eyes full of tears, Zaina’s mother kissed her and left the SOS village. Despite being sad to be separated from her mother, the little girl was courageous, wiped her tears with her little hands, and smiled to her new SOS mother.
When she first arrived, she was very thin, in a complete mess and it was obvious that she hasn’t taken a bath and hasn't changed her clothes in a long time. Two days later Zaina went to a mall to buy new clothes with her SOS mother “No one believed it was me when I stepped onto the village bus; everyone said I am pretty and I look like princess. We bought a lot of things for me from the mall and my mother allowed me to choose this sweater myself” said Zaina, while showing us a cute tiny doll on her sweater. The little Zaina has been living in SOS Qudsaya Children’s Village since November.
After joining the village, Zaina was enrolled in a special educational programme for children who have been deprived from school for many years. After two years she will be able to catch up on her learnings and go to school, in the same class of students her age. Before arriving to the village, Zaina had been away from school for five years, she was living in an area that is located in eastern Ghouta, where education became elusive after turning schools to shelters where displaced families live after they lost their houses in bombing. With no electricity, clean water and enough food, Zaina lived with her mother and old grandfather very hard days. They moved from a shelter to another many times after they lost their home. They spent these years in schools, empty houses and Basements. “There are thousands of deserted houses there with no doors or furniture. However, we used to often find clothes on the floor and we wear them. It was left by people who fled their houses” said Zaina.
For a little girl, it was very hard to live many years in a very dangerous conflict zone where bombs and shells fall daily, especially without having her father, beside whom she felt protected. Zaina’s father disappeared 3 years ago and no one heard good nor bad news about him since then. Zaina’s grandfather illness and his inability to move made things worse. They were obliged to stay in an old house. They could not leave the house for long time to look for food or to bring water. “No, I didn’t feel that it was a very hard condition to live in, because all my friends there are in the same situation but my mother was always crying since I was her only daughter and she cares very much about me” said Zaina.
After months of thinking, Zaina’s mother decided to move her daughter out of Eastern Ghouta. To be able to do so, she had to pretend that Zaina was very sick and to wait for more than 2 months to get the approval from the military on the final checkpoint. Only women and children could get such permission, and in very rare cases. Luckily, Zaina’ mother was was able to get out with her daughter. She directly went to see her sister who is living with her two children in a shelter located in an area near Qudsaya village. Zaina’s mother was initially planning to leave her daughter with her sister, and go back to look after her father who is unable go out of Eastern Ghouta because he is a man, regardless of his weak health condition.
Zaina’s mother saw that her sister is barley taking care of her children in the shelter, and she wanted to guarantee she will leave her daughter in a safe a good place. A lady knew about Zaina’s mother story, and told her about SOS village in Qudsaya. She visited the villages and was reassured it is a safe place for her daughter. Zaina’s mother went back to her father in east Ghouta after promising her daughter that she will try to get the approval again and get out to visit her one day.
“She has changed a lot since she came here. She is more active now. Sometimes she opens up and speaks to me about her life and what she saw there. I don’t want her to remember the bad memories but the Psychologist told me that it is good for her to speak and release her stress and fears whenever she feels the need to do so. To be honest, I have never seen a little girl who is more polite and sweet than Zaina. She is a well behaving daughter” said mam Saada, Zaina’s SOS mother.
In her new home, Zaina has many things that she is thankful for. Her time is full of activities and study. She has 8 brothers and sisters now. However, she currently tries to help her two new brothers Hani & Abed who joined the family lately to feel comfortable and happy in their new home. Zaina has a very big wish, she prays every night before going to sleep, to hear news about her father and she wishes safety for her mother, grandfather and for all other children.
*The name of the child was change to protect her privacy.