Rebuilding her life one therapy session at a time

A Syrian woman stands and poses for a photo at a refugee camp in Jordan.

Today, Samra, 39, is making her way to Handicap International’s rehabilitation center for a group activity. She walks slowly along the camp tracks before finally reaching the organization’s caravan, where she joins a dozen other Syrian women, all roughly the same age as her. Handicap International staffer Bashayer, who is going to be running today’s activity, greets Samra with a big smile. In the time they have known each other, a strong bond of trust has developed between Samra and Bashayer.

“I met Bashayer by chance really,” explains Samra. “I had back pains and I used to go to Handicap International’s center for regular rehabilitation sessions. One day, I was in a terrible place, and I’d had enough. Bashayer saw me crying and immediately came over for a chat. She suggested I take part in some psychosocial support sessions, which she said would help me feel better. Since then, we’ve had seven sessions together.”

Samra has been living in Azraq refugee camp for eighteen months. “When the crisis began in Syria, armed groups captured my husband and murdered him. Things got much worse in our country as the years went by. In 2013, I fled to Lebanon with my children but we only stayed for three weeks because life was just too hard for us there. When we got back to Syria, the armed groups who had killed my husband wanted to murder us too. Our neighbours helped us escape and we headed straight for Jordan. We stayed on the border for three months before we managed to cross over. At the time I was badly affected by everything we had been through. I felt so angry all the time and outraged at how unfair everything was.”

Azraq has given Samra and her five children a breathing space. “Life is slightly easier than before. We can finally rest and we feel safe. But my children found it very difficult to get used to being refugees. And I felt so lost, as if the future of my whole family depended on me. I tried to be strong and not to get emotional. But the day I met Bashayer, I just couldn’t take it anymore.”  

“I immediately felt Samra’s distress,” explains Bashayer. “She was still extremely upset by everything that had happened to her over the last few years, but talking about it in our one-on-one psychosocial support sessions, and taking part in the activities we organize, is helping her, so she’s gradually getting to a better place mentally.”

The group activity hosted by Bashayer is about to start. The women attending today’s activity have all benefited from the psychosocial support sessions organized by Handicap International. “The aim of this group session is to help them realize that they are not alone, that a lot of mothers in the camp are in the same situation, and that they can help each other,” says Bashayer.

“When they suggested coming here today, I said yes straightaway,” adds Samra. “It has been a big help talking with Bashayer. I was full of anger and fear before, but that’s slowly fading away, and I’m starting to become my old optimistic self again. We’ve lost everything but now I need to rebuild my life and focus on the future. For example, I want to make new friends with the people I meet in activities like this one.” Bashayer begins the group session with a relaxation exercise. The women around her close their eyes. Samra puts her hand on her heart and starts to smile. 

HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL AND THE SYRIAN CRISIS

Nearly 900,000 people have benefited from Handicap International’s actions since launching operations in 2012. The organization provides physical rehabilitation services and psychological support, and distributes emergency aid to meet the basic needs of people with injuries, people with disabilities and particularly vulnerable individuals. To prevent injuries and death, Handicap International also issues awareness-raising and safety messages targeting local populations living amid explosive remnants of war. Learn more about our work in Syria and read our February 2017 Syrian/Iraqi situation report.