“Before the war,” a local Christian explains, “all of these balconies would be lit up in Christmas lights.” Even last year, buildings were darkened for fear of being spotted and targeted at night during the Syrian Civil War.
“Cars that needed to pass by here had to drive at high speeds for fear of being hit,” says Nour, another program organizer. The dangers had essentially stopped the city’s young people from playing on several soccer fields.
Since the summer, however, Vera explained, the grounds were freshly renovated by the government and reopened for rent, allowing the Alliance Church of Qassaa to create a Center of Hope for children of all Christian denominations.
So now, tucked away behind all the cement was an array of fields, complete with artificial grass waiting to be played on. Vera and her team noticed that children, during the war, weren’t able to play outside in many areas and were isolated. “We’re offering them a chance to get out in the open and learn to be less tense and anxious,” she explains.
This soccer program has included 500 children, with an expected 1,500 by next year. There is participation across the denominational spectrum. Any hint of anxiety, though, seemed to be absent in the sheer joy the children from the neighborhood showed as they ran onto the field.
“I wasn’t able to play outside with my friends as much during the crisis,” 12-year-old Walid* enthusiastically exclaims, while his quieter friend Samir* says he couldn’t play outside at all.
Both boys and girls seemed equally enthusiastic about the newfound social interaction they could experience, as 14-year-old Sara* notes, with her friends nodding in agreement, that her parents “refused to even let us go out before!”
Things have changed for these children in Syria.