Surviving the Trauma of Syria’s War – December 13 2018

Surviving the Trauma of Syria’s War

More than half of Saleh’s 10-year-old life has been about one thing—war. War took his father away leaving behind only a bloody pair of boots. Saleh keeps them in his closet as his only reminder. “How long will the war last?” he wonders. “Will I see my friends again? Would they even recognize me?” 

The Journey from Trauma to Healing

So many children come to us through tragic circumstances: poverty, war, abandonment and natural disasters. More than 10 million children around the world have been displaced and separated from loved ones. One survey found that three quarters of refugee and migrant children interviewed said they had experienced violence, harassment or aggression during their journey. Nearly half reported also experiencing sexual abuse.

The lucky ones find support from SOS Children’s Villages. Meet one of the children whose life has been forever changed.


“My father died there,” 10-year-old Saleh from Syria says, pointing to the spot where he last saw his father. “They didn’t give us his body to say a last goodbye. They gave us his bloodied clothes and boots. I still have them.”

Standing in the alley near Saleh’s home, tarps and sheets hang above. They are intended to block sniper fire.

Saleh lives in a partially bombed out apartment building in Damascus. Before the war, Saleh and his friends went to school just around the corner. Looking through the barred windows now, the chalkboard still reads “October 12, 2012”: the last day of school and a stark reminder of the day everything changed. 

He tells us, “At night, we don’t go out. We lock the door very tightly so no one can hurt us. We smell the burning dead bodies all night. I used to wonder if my father’s body was burned, too.”

The devastation and trauma Saleh has endured is all too common in areas of the world afflicted with violence. Of the more than 22 million refugees around the globe, nearly half are children just like Saleh.

Saleh is now getting help at the SOS Children’s Villages drop-in center in Damascus, where he receives the psychological and social support he needs to regain his childhood.

Providing safety, love and hope for more children

While Saleh has found support, there are still abandoned children living on the streets and others who have been forced to flee their homes. The physical, psychological and emotional toll on these children can be severe and debilitating.  

But you can help bring these children off the streets and into a loving home. Through the generosity of our supporters, SOS Children’s Villages offers mental health programs and services to children, families and communities and trains SOS mothers and caregivers to provide critical help to traumatized children. Most importantly, your contribution will bring something these orphaned, vulnerable and forgotten children desperately need—hope.

Do you care for a child who has experienced trauma?

Learn about how you can help your own children process their stress, trauma and loss.

You can also guide your child's recovery with our helpful resources:

Childhood trauma: 30+ signs your child is trying to cope

Play therapy: Helping babies, toddlers and young children heal from trauma

Trauma therapy: Using art to help your child heal

*Name changed to protect the child's privacy.