“We do not like to be called refugees,” Mahmoud, a young Syrian man in his early twenties told me, as I met him during a psychosocial activity in Obour City of Greater Cairo. He and his new friends would like to think of themselves as short-term visitors.
“I thought I was going to stay in Egypt for only one month, next thing I know was that I was enrolled to an Egyptian university, and was to stay a bit longer, but until when? I don’t know,” Mahmoud told his peers, as they shared their stories.
Mahmoud is not the only one, his peers of same age-group share the same feelings on uncertainty. They do not know when is it all going to end. They live a temporary life, one they never expected to undergo. I could tell they are all homesick. But where else would they go? They have no home to go back to. Most of the homes in Syria are nothing but scattered bricks on the ground.
“Can you send us our pictures? We would like to keep remember these memories from our stay in Egypt,” Mohannad, another young man politely asked me.
They forget about the external world in this spacious basement they meet in. It is like they are in Syria once again. The psychosocial sessions, organized by CARE International in Egypt in Obour and 6th of October City, help them to vent their inner feelings, through acting and playing sports. They learn to work as a team, express themselves, share their experiences, and analyze their behaviors.
I hear their stories, and could clearly see that they have faced unforgettable traumas before they fled Syria. Some had their friends or family members shot in front of their eyes, while others have imprisoned family members. They share their stories reservedly throughout the activities, but I could tell they were happy to meet people who have something in common.
Some participants share devastating stories as part of the activities. Stories they would not usually tell to outsiders, but they spend a lot of time together that they are no longer strangers. They share their grievances, and help each other to overcome the past.
The activities make them laugh too, as they are assigned humorous roles by their counselor. At one activity, they were asked to fight with a partner as neighbors would, and start criticizing different behaviors known to provoke others such as dripping clothes, or noisy children. Such activities help them let their frustrations out in a subliminal way.
Their time spent in Egypt is no longer spent on waiting and gloomy memories. They were happy to get some genuine responsiveness and share activities with fellow Syrians. They are building new positive memories; they are learning to move on together, not as strangers, but as caring friends.
CARE International in Egypt presents a holistic approach to addressing the problem of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) among the Syrian refugees, of all ages and genders. Among the activities it provides sportive activities, art therapy, community mobilization activities including community theatre and participatory planning activities, awareness on SGBV and risks thereof, psychosocial sessions, and legal assistance.
Written by Mona Soliman, Communications Advisor