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Sept. 30, 2013

NEWS

FOURTH ESTATE

(AZIZ ABU SARAH/CENTER FOR WORLD RELIGIONS, DIPLOMACY AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION)

Faculty offer Syrian refugee children summer camp Volunteers provide educational activities for children who have lost their schools in conflict JANELLE GERMANOS NEWS EDITOR

Despite the continuous conflict in their country, Syrian refugee children find enjoyment in summer camp activities hosted by Mason’s Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. At the camp, the children built models of their town in Syria, did morning workouts and other educational activities.

While diplomats and world leaders are debating their course of action for intervening in Syria, the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at Mason decided not to wait to begin helping those affected by the crisis. Aziz Abu Sarah, an executive director at the CRDC, and Nousha Kabawat, the program officer for Syria at the CRDC, were in Turkey and Jordan last year at Syrian refugee camps and noticed that the camps severely lacked educational activities for children. “The center [CRDC] ran a class last year in March at the border area in Turkey. Nousha and I recognized the need,” Abu Sarah said. “We figured out the need that there are millions of children who don’t go to school, and those that do go to school are not able to receive all the help they need, whether it’s materials, training, food and lots of

things. That is why we decided to start the summer camp.” To address this problem, the CRDC decided to start Camp Amal ou Salam for the Syrian refugee children. Abu Sarah spent ten days in August at the camp in Turkey near the Syrian border. Kabawat, who is Syrian and grew up in Syria, wanted to do something to help the traumatized children who were torn away from their homes. “I knew that a summer camp is an easy way to get a message across or give them an educational experience,” Kabawat said. “The whole idea was for them to have fun but to get something beneficial about it, and I think that is what we did.” According to the CRDC, half of registered Syrian refugees are children. At the camp, Kabawat and Abu Sarah worked with over 400 children. “In Syria, we know that there are about four million children that are displaced or refugees. We want to

engage with some of those children and do whatever we can do to help,” Abu Sarah said. At the camp, the children participated in arts, music, storytelling, physical activity, team-building and trust-building workshops. In the art workshop, children participated in a “rebuild your town” workshop where they were encouraged to work together to rebuild a hospital, school, police station, garden or other building destroyed in their town using art supplies. Kabawat also led an art workshop where she asked the children to draw what they imagined peace looked like onto a piece of fabric. “They are growing up with such a revolutionary mentality that every time you give them a piece of paper, they draw a revolution flag. There is always blood in their pictures. I just wanted them to step out of that way of thinking for a few hours,” Kabawat said. Kabawat is currently working on

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