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A safe place for Saja*

“Everyone is playing together. Me and my friends are like sisters.”

When 11-year-old Saja* first arrived at the camp in the east of Iraq, she refused to leave the tent. After fleeing flighting in their neighbourhood, her brothers and sisters were the same. “It’s like they were denying the fact they are living in a camp,” her mother, Sumaya*, tells us. “There was nothing for them to do in the camp except play around the tents.”

Saja had loved school back home, back before fighting had forced the family had to flee – but now, she had nowhere to go. 

That was until Save the Children opened a Child Friendly Space and Saja’s cousin convinced her to go along. “When she comes back home, Saja talks about her day at the Child Friendly Space and all the activities. She used to really enjoy school back home, and I think the space here reminds her of that.” 

As well as providing water, food and life-saving healthcare to kids caught in emergencies, you help provide Child Friendly Spaces like the one Saja attends. They’re places where children can play, spend time with other kids, and receive psychological support for all the horrifying experiences they have lived through. It’s vitally important for their futures and we couldn’t run these spaces with you. You are there for children who have been through the worst. 

Why Saja needed our support

Saja and her family had been through a lot when we met them. 

Armed fighting in Iraq had forced them to leave their home and flee in search of safety. “The conflict started early 2014,” explains Sumaya. “Many of our relatives died. Armed groups were in our neighbourhood regularly and the children were afraid of their presence. The fighting intensified, and we heard the regular shelling. 

“My children’s school was targeted but thankfully no children were present. We had to keep our children home from that day.

“For six months we lived like this, in constant fear.

“When we decided to escape, we left in the morning. We didn’t carry anything with us. We left our village because armed groups were there and attacking houses. We took the road from the mountains and we came here. The weather was very hot, people got sick and some children were fainting.

“We travelled by car, like all the others fleeing our town. While we were stopping an explosion happened behind us, and we realised it hit my brother’s car. It was destroyed with him, his wife and four children. We were horrified, my children were screaming and crying.”

After a dangerous journey, with little food and water, Saja and her family arrived in the camp. And that’s where Saja met Save the Children.

“I like coming to the Child Friendly Space here because it is like my house and everyone is playing together,” Saja says. “Me and my friends are like sisters. We play different games like hide and seek, tug of war and running. I like my friends and the Child Friendly Space because there are a lot of toys and the teachers take care of us.”

Saja’s dreams for the future

When she grows up, Saja already knows what she wants to do “Birds don’t have doctors to give them treatment or anyone to take care of them,” she says. “I want to heal them. I want to be a vet, to take care of them.”

And then she says, reflectively, “I would like to be a bird, so I can return back to my home.”

We hope Saja can return home one day too, but for now, the Child Friendly Space is helping Saja deal with what she has been through by providing psychological support and a place to play – she’s receiving the support she needs thanks to people like you. 

*Saja and Sumaya’s names have been changed to protect their identities. 

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