In October, SOS Children’s Villages Syria opened a second SOS Village in Damascus to address the need for additional care in the war-torn country.
Now in its seventh year, the Syrian civil war has created a widespread and dire humanitarian crisis for 13.5 million people inside the country, including 5.8 million children. The ongoing violence and destruction have led to an acute shortage of food, drinkable water and medical supplies.
The new SOS Village provides a safe and loving home for 80 children who have been evacuated from Aleppo, lost their parents due to the conflict or are waiting to be reunited with their biological families.
In the following interview, Ghufran Awera, Director of the new SOS Children’s Village, discusses the need for opening a second SOS Village, the safety of the children and how it will help relieve overcrowding at other SOS homes and programs.
What are the main reasons for opening a new SOS Children’s Village for children in Damascus?
The first SOS Children’s Village opened in Damascus more than 30 years ago. The existing facilities no longer have the capacity. This is mainly because in 2012, families living in the SOS Village in Aleppo were evacuated to Damascus because of the escalation of tension and insecurity.
A second reason is that we had to find a solution for children who are separated from their biological families and who have been living?in SOS Children’s Villages Interim Care Centers. The SOS Village will provide long-term care in a family environment for these children.
Is the new SOS Children’s Village in a safe area?
The new SOS Village is located in southwest Damascus, about 10 miles away from the city center and close to the border with Lebanon. Fortunately, this district is considered one of the safest areas in Syria.
We work hard every day to protect children and keep them safe, whether they are living in the SOS Children’s Village or in other homes—every child's safety is a top priority.
We have tested emergency action plans to make sure that we consider every precaution. The evacuation of the SOS Children’s Village in Aleppo is an example. We safely transferred the children and families in our care to Damascus in September 2012 because of the deteriorating security in Aleppo. In September 2016, we transferred the children at the SOS Children’s Village in Damascus to safer areas because of military clashes in the vicinity.
What is the capacity of the new SOS Children’s Village in Damascus?
We have ten homes large enough for eight children and an SOS Mother in each home. We are very happy to be able to provide long-term care for more children, which was not possible before due to the lack of space at the existing SOS Children’s Village.
Where will the children attend school?
The new SOS Village is in an excellent location. There are three schools and two kindergartens within a half mile from the SOS families’ homes. Children who came from the SOS Interim Care Centers are already attending these schools as the new SOS Village is close to these centers. There are also many facilities nearby where children can play safely, make new friends and build family relationships.
What does the new SOS Children’s Village mean to SOS children and families?
An SOS Children’s Village is a place where vulnerable children can have a good life. It is a place they can call home. The children are excited about living in a family and in a new home. I am happy we can provide a loving home for children who need it the most, and I really wish all children who have lost parental care could have such a home.
About SOS Children's Villages Syria
SOS Children’s Villages has worked in Syria for more than 30 years, providing care for vulnerable children. The first SOS Village in Damascus has been operating since 1981. Currently in Damascus, we provide care for 400 children and young adults and support 340 vulnerable families. The Aleppo village, which opened in 1998, was evacuated in 2012 and all the children were transferred to Damascus.
In response to the growing humanitarian crisis, SOS Children’s Villages launched an emergency relief program in 2012 to help internally displaced people in Aleppo, Damascus and Tartous. SOS staff have provided child-friendly spaces, interim care, medical referrals, educational support and humanitarian assistance throughout much of Syria’s civil war. Emergency teams also assist Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Europe.