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Former Pozen Center Human Rights Intern and Office and Communications Assistant Melissa Gatter is now a PhD student in Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge. She recently published an article in the journal Contemporary Levant, exploring how youth in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan navigate childhood and grapple with their Syrian identity using NGO resources and spaces. She writes:

Within the timetables of NGO programming, children have the opportunity to engage in skills training... A 19-year-old attends art therapy programming at a child-friendly centre, where she treats programming as training for her dream profession, photojournalism, and participates in a project called Inside Za`tari, interviewing and taking pictures of children around the camp to be featured on Instagram. She proudly stated that her photos had won a prize during an art exhibition in the camp… 

To be sure, these new childhoods are not a return to pre-war Syrian childhoods, nor do they claim to be... NGO involvement in the management of camp childhoods inherently shapes childhoods that are different from what they might have been in a peaceful Syria. For instance, children are introduced to new forms of play, such as the British sport of rugby or the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, as well as to new ideas, including women's rights. One child participating in a rugby match explained that the sport was completely new to him and his friends, but they quickly grew to love it because ‘it's fun and easy and it makes us happy.’ Children come to NGO programming with their knowledge of Syrian traditions and community beliefs but also open to new ideas and activities. The outcome of this is a hybrid experience: not a completely Syrian childhood, nor a completely humanitarian one.

Read the whole article here.