Across countries around the world, children laugh, play, and enjoy the frivolous activities of being a kid. However, in war torn countries such as Syria, children are growing up much sooner, many evacuating their homeland to seek safer ground.
Since March 2011, when a civil war erupted in Syria, two million people have begun migrating from Syria to find safety primarily in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These refugees include one million children. Some, if not most, of these children have lost their families, friends, homes, and schools. In this country, many booms and blasts are heard everyday, hurting innocent children.
Several countries and organizations are trying to help these children regain their strength, both mentally and physically. Dr. Christine Latif, the response manager for Turkey and northern Syria from World Vision stated that the children of Syria have, “experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” (worldvision.org). As a result, several Syrian children are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, and millions have been forced to quit school.
One child refugee, five year old Omran Daqneesh, gained international media attention when an airstrike struck his neighborhood and a photo of him injured and distraught was posted on the internet on August 13, 2016 (New York Times). The photo of him in shock in the back of an orange ambulance has been posted on newspapers all across the world.
A six year old boy, Alex, from New York, decided to write a letter to President Obama on August 21, 2016, asking if he could adopt Omran and make him his brother (Fox News). Situations like these show how much love all the children in Syria are receiving and how there are many efforts to improve the lives of these children.
In his letter, Alex stated what he and his sister Catherine will provide him if the President allows him to adopt Omran. He wrote, “we will give him a family and he will be our brother.” Additionally, he wrote that he will wait for Omran with flags, flowers, and balloons.
Though Alex may not understand that the United States government is not allowing refugees into our country due to controversial security threats, he sure has a heart large enough to support the children of Syria, including Omran.
Omran is not alone. Several other people, including ordinary citizens whom you have probably encountered in your daily lives, have experienced what it is like to be a political refugee. Parthiv Sangani, a father of two girls and husband to Misti Sangani, was one of these people.
When Parthiv was seven years old, he, and the rest of his family, were living in the East African country of Uganda. However, Idi Amin, the president of Uganda, expelled all Indians from Uganda. Each person in his family had to leave the country within 90 days with only one suitcase.
When leaving Uganda, Parthiv had to leave his, “house, school, car, friends, and belongings.” Leaving Uganda was a dangerous journey; as they drove to the border of Kampala, they ran into several checkpoints where armed guards, acting as toy soldiers, searched their car. Several other guards shot the Indians that drove by, but Parthiv was lucky. The Ugandans were blaming the 1% of Indians in the country for every problem that Uganda was facing.
The Sangani family left Uganda to go to Kenya, and Kenya to go to India. In Jamnagar, where Parthiv’s mother’s family grew up in India, he was not able to resume going to school because the only English school in the town was already full, so he had to stay home. Meanwhile, Parthiv’s father, Rashmikant Sangani, got a Visa to the United States where he took foreign doctor tests to see if he could stay, a process which took a year, but allowed for the rest of the Sangani family to move to New York.
In the end, Parthiv had his education disrupted, lived a year without his father, lost all his friends and belongings, but, as a child refugee at age seven, was able to move to the United States. Here, he was united with his father and resumed his education. When Parthiv described what it was like to arrive in the US, Parthiv stated, “It was very nice.” Unfortunately, not all child refugees are as lucky as him.
Malala Yousafzai, a 19 year old who rose to fame after being shot for speaking up for girls education and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is making an effort to help education for Syrian refugee children since many had to stop attending school like Parthiv.
Since millions of refugee children are no longer attending school, Yousafzai is launching a half a billion dollar campaign to help fund education for these vulnerable children (Cable News Network). According to a study issued by World Vision, the number of Syrian youth in education has plummeted to a 15-year low in the past five years as a result of the war.
Either way, no matter what, people all across the world are trying to help these children who are facing some of the most difficult hardships imaginable. The civil war in Syria has no apparent waning, and though many of these children are losing hope, optimism is spreading.
Many of these children have not seen their families in years. Because of this, the world needs to start acting as a family to these children. The message inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York, written by Emma Lazarus, rings true today, accurately reflecting the weight of the Syrian refugee crisis, for children, and adults.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”