The following is an extract from interviews with No Strings-trained facilitators by Barb Fraze of CNS:
BEIRUT (CNS) — Syrian children who have seen their houses bombed and family members killed are using string, glue, socks, beads and other odds and ends to help put their lives back together.
Counselors, teachers and volunteers are being trained to help the children process their trauma through the use of puppets.
In some instances, children who had not spoken in months would speak to the puppets, said Davide Bernocchi, country representative to Lebanon and Jordan for Catholic Relief Services. Staff members of the development agency CRS have worked with No Strings International to create films using puppets. They trained adults how to use puppets to talk to the children about what they saw. The children then make their own puppets.
The puppets are “like a friend for them,” said Charbel Zgheib, project coordinator for Adyan, one of CRS’s partner agencies in Lebanon. They become “real friends with a real name.”
Zgheib said that in working with hundreds of children, the trained adults, or animators, have found that especially the 11- and 12-year-old girls felt like they had to become adults and take care of their siblings. The puppets allowed them “to play … to sing and to dance.”
Lana Snobar, counseling coordinator for Caritas in Jordan, said the Syrian refugee children are “used to bombs” and to “seeing blood on the street.” Often the children — who sleep with their entire families in small, partitioned areas of church basements and schools — suffer from bedwetting.
In Beirut, Zgheib said refugee children use the puppets to talk about what they saw in Syria.
“It was very important for them to express through the puppets,” he said.