Suzanne Del Rizzo, author and illustrator of My Beautiful Birds, writes:
With the increased news coverage about the Syrian conflict, young readers may have questions and feel distressed. Approaching the subject in an age-appropriate way to ensure they feel safe can often be difficult. Here are some website resources which feature information on the Syrian conflict and other displacement stories to begin the conversation.
This site has original news articles on today’s current events, such as the Syrian crisis, written for a school aged audience (grades 2-8).
Amnesty International has compiled a list of educational resources that explain the rights of refugees.
United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
This website offers classroom resources and an interactive online game “Against All Odds” which “lets you experience what it is like to be a refugee”.
In fact, while I was researching child-friendly resources to use myself to discuss this crisis with my own children, I came across a short UNICEF article, written by Krystel Abimeri, about a boy who fled to the Za’atari refugee camp with his family, and began an incredible friendship with an assortment of wild birds. This article inspired me to create My Beautiful Birds.
Za’atari, Jordan’s largest refugee camp, has grown rapidly from a few hundred tents into a massive network of tents and self-renovated structures with public services like schools, mosques, stores, and medical buildings, making it more like a city than a camp. Now, structured activities such as therapeutic art workshops, mural painting, and sports are offered by various organizations. Volunteers engage youth to reintroduce play and ignite their self-expression to release the trauma of war. Many residents have set up small shops such as barbershops, falafael stands, clothing/household goods stores (even a wedding-dress shop), and pizza delivery, along the main street nicknamed the Champs-Elysee. Although the distribution of these services and shops is not ideal due to the quick growth of the camp, the trade and public services access helps make this semi-permanent living situation feel more like home.
More info on life in Za’atari camp:
Za’atari’s own twitter feed with tweets by the UNHCR
The Lived Zaatari Project
How can we help?
There are many Canadian and international aid agencies providing emergency assistance, supplies and resources:
The United Nations Refugee Agency
The Canadian Red Cross actively supports SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) working on the frontline across Syria to provide food, life-saving health services, and household items to people in need.
UNICEF distributes clean water, vaccines, education, psychosocial support, winter supplies, and protection to refugee children and families in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, European countries, and those actively fleeing Syria.
Canada’s Response to the Refugee Crisis
Canada has welcomed over 25,000 Syrian refugees though government and private sponsorship. As of April 2016, Canadians generously donated a total of $31.8 million to charitable organizations in response to the conflict in Syria, which the Government of Canada will match through the Syria Emergency Relief Fund.