Syria: "Our greatest victory is to see her smile again"


A few months ago, some people in the internally displaced persons camp in northern Syria told Handicap International’s team about Jamila. “When we entered her tent, we introduced ourselves and explained how we could help her,” explains Mustafa, a Handicap International psychosocial worker. “After assessing her needs I realized that she was in a state of psychological distress. She was very isolated, sad, and extremely worried about her grandchild's future."

The team began providing Jamila with physical therapy, and psychosocial support. "I wanted to break her out of this isolation and help her integrate back into society," Mustafa adds. "For example, I encouraged her to join a women’s group in the camp.”

Eventually, Jamila started to leave her tent and socialize. “She still thinks about the past all the time,” explains Mustafa, “but we are trying to help her accept her situation.”

Rami and Mohammad, the team’s physical therapists have also noticed an improvement: “Jamila walks better than when we first met her, and she has better balance.” The organization’s partners add, “Our greatest victory is to see her smile again," which is a huge success considering the amount of loss Jamila has suffered.

Seated on the floor of her tent, Jamila details a harrowing journey that ended with her living in the camp. “The attacks just kept on coming," she says. “When the war started, I didn’t realize what it would entail for me and my family. Until my two sons died” during a bombing. "And after my sons died, it was my responsibility to take care of the rest of the family. I had to get my daughter-in-law and grandson to safety, so we left. We changed accommodation four times, desperately searching for somewhere not affected by the attacks. And then we finally arrived here...”

Weary and tired, Jamila recalls the day her remaining son decided to flee. “They had gone to visit a friend. As they were coming home, they were caught in an attack. Shortly afterwards, my third, and last, son decided to take refuge in Turkey with his wife and daughter. The loss of my three children was unbearable. I felt like my soul had left my body.”

Yet Jamila never considers leaving Syria. “I was born here, and it is here that I’m going to die,” she says. “Whatever happens, my life is in this country.”