Conflict in the Middle East
Two Films for Children affected by Conflict in the Middle East
A year ago, Fatima saw her father shot dead at a checkpoint. Since then, she and her remaining family have been forced to move several times like so many people now displaced within Syria. Fatima was left deeply traumatised and withdrawn, but never spoke about what she saw.
Crossing into Lebanon, Fatima was able to go to special play sessions for refugee children. It was here she first watched Out of the Shadows, a film about a brother and sister whose parents are killed in the Syrian war and who struggle with many difficult emotions on coming to live with their Aunt and cousins.
Perhaps not the kind of thing you’d normally show a 10-year-old, but this was a No Strings film, the characters all puppets and the script sensitively and painstakingly developed. Fatima was engrossed as she watched.
If you read the synopsis, you’ll understand how children like Fatima react in many different ways to this film: it’s not unusual to see tears. This is why all facilitators using it are trained in understanding how children are affected by trauma and how to respond to and comfort them, and where appropriate, refer them on for specialist support.
They’re also trained in how to encourage children to explore together and talk about what they’ve seen, focusing on one or more of the film’s key messages and how the characters develop. The tools they use are puppets and play. They might go back to the film several times over weeks, and many faciliators say they see significant changes in children’s behaviour as a result.
In one particular follow-up session, children were given hand puppets to wear and bring to life with their voices. They’d often seen their facilitators using the puppets so were more than curious to have a go themselves.
“What happened then astonished us,” says Ali, a Lebanese psychologist, and a facilitator trained by No Strings. “Fatima put on the puppet, and began telling us a story about a little girl. What I’ll never forget is the funny voice she used, high pitched and almost comical. The little girl in her story had seen her father brutally killed. This was the first time Fatima had ever talked about what she’d seen, and she was only able to do so through the puppet. Nobody had any idea this had happened, it just came out. The puppet gave her that power.”
Ali and his team were able to refer Fatima for specialist help.
Filmed in September 2013, Out of the Shadows was developed in a partnership between No Strings, CRS (Catholic Relief Services) and Caritas France, and is currently reaching thousands of children and teenagers affected by traumatic experiences in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Our second film in the region, Red Top, Blue Top, is a fable that shows we are in fact all more alike than we’re different, and encourages children to value skills that enable us to understand each other better. In it, we visit a village of two peoples who are the same in every way but one, and see how life there has become all but intolerable after generations of mutual hatred.
OUR WORK IN IRAQ …
Pictures of our workshops with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for young people displaced by conflict in Iraq