Rebuilding hearts. Ward’s journey

The story of Ward Al-Hussein, a Syrian teacher from Deir al Zour, who has lived in Turkey since 2020. Having survived the earthquake of last February 6, she teaches storytelling to children to rebuild, together with them, with words, a life beyond the rubble.

My name is Ward Al-Hussein, I am 33 years old and I come from Syria, from the city of Deir al-Zour, where I taught the Arabic language. I moved to different cities to escape the scourge of war until I arrived in Turkey in 2020, after a long and tiring journey.

I decided to volunteer at the Rainbow Kids centre [a Catholic church project) to help my community. Today I teach storytelling to children. The little ones love stories full of imagination and so to encourage their participation we sometimes treat fairy tales as if they were theatrical performances, or we improvise as illustrators and create images to accompany the adventures of the protagonists of our favourite stories.

When an earthquake suddenly shook the city of Gaziantep, I was at my sister’s house. Everything was shaking. I rushed towards my sister and her son, we hugged each other, then we left the house in search of our loved ones and friends. It was snowing at the time. My brother wasn’t answering the phone, so I went to Kahramanmarash City to check on his situation there. The streets were already crowded with rescuers, his neighbourhood was completely destroyed.

I started calling my nephews, my brother and his wife by name. After some terrifying moments, I heard a response: “Aunt, I’m fine, but my mother is dead. She told me to forgive her before she died and to take care of my younger brother.”

Since that day something has changed in me. I developed a strong desire to help people affected by the earthquake. With an inner determination that I had never known before, I volunteered to distribute aid to the survivors, blankets, food, diapers and the like. That earthquake still haunts me at night. Sometimes, I am unable to sleep, because I worry about being caught by surprise. In Syria it was the same, the planes bombed at night and I was the first to leave the house because I was awake, so I survived death in those difficult circumstances.

Rainbow Kids helped me to gradually forget; it is a place that removes all negative energy. When I see children around me, I feel safe. In the days immediately following the earthquake, we carried out some fun activities in the park while the volunteers were busy distributing aid. There were tents and fires lit in the street because we didn’t know how else to keep warm, yet they ran around laughing, as always. Their smiles at that moment were the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish goodness and peace to my homeland, fair education and equal opportunities for children around the world. (Caritas)


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