A child refugee from Syria drew this picture of her mother and herself.
Three million people like you and me.
That number astounds me. Imagine more than half of Victoria had to up and leave to other states, forced from their homes.
While the world is used to news moving rapidly, the situation in Syria has plateaued in the media. The violence and loss of life, if anything, has increased. In July 2014 alone the UN reported more than 1000 civilian deaths. A report released last week tells us that at least 191,000 people have died in the period up until April 2014. Sadly, it is estimated that number is extremely conservative.
The task of making sense of it all, the politics and who should be blamed would be equivalent to untangling sailor knots. Instead let’s look at the people who are bearing the consequences of the devastating conflict, and particularly the children. The children and families who had lives similar to ours, living in similar homes, hoping and dreaming of similar goals. Loving their families and worrying about enrolling the kids into university, finding a job or travelling abroad for holidays.
Last year, I was in the region and I visited a World Vision operated child friendly space to provide remedial education for children. These spaces are integral for children caught up in the nightmare of conflict. In the world that seems has turned upside down, these spaces provide safe refuge, where children interact with other children. Children can play, where children can study, laugh and forget that they are in a tent, in a foreign country, in one of very few outfits they managed to bring along.
I draw as a hobby and naturally I am fascinated with young artists. I am amazed at the untainted style of expression children possess, yet what Syrian children draw is bitter. The majority of the drawings I saw showed weapons, explosions, armed stick figures and scared children running for their lives.
Then amongst all the dark coloured drawings, I discovered one piece of paper with tiny figurines shining through with hope.
It was a small smiling woman with a child, drawn innocently, as only a child can. They had no injuries and looked like something we could come across in any school corridor in Australia. The picture was drawn by one of the quiet girls, and it was of her and her mother.
When we asked her about her drawing, we found out that her mother is missing. They were separated – she never made it when the little girl was escaping Syria with the rest of the family.
I felt like all the air in the room had been vacuumed, and it was hard to breathe. Every child had a story and everyone missed someone or something. The day ended and eventually I came home with this image tattooed within my memories. But I still wonder about this little girl, and whether her mother ever returned.
So today, when we hear about the war and catastrophe in the Middle East, where it is so easy to lay blame and wish that the people fighting this war would stop – let’s take a moment and look at this image. These are people caught up in this crisis, and children make up at least half this staggering number.
You can click here to find out more, and donate if you are able. Money raised helps us provide clean water and sanitation, remedial education to girls like the one I mentioned and provide urgent hygiene supplies to families that often come with nothing.