Mohammed (13) From Syria is Learning to Express His Emotions

Mohammed was four years old when he fled the battlefield in Syria. For seven years he lived in Jordan, where he was discriminated against and bullied. He has been living in the Netherlands for two years. Sometimes he finds it difficult to express his emotions, but the TeamUp activities are helping him to do just that. "I like that teachers ask me how I am doing. That didn't happen in Syria and Jordan".
TeamUp play and movement activities help a child get in touch wiht others and build friendships

The confrontation with war and violence and stressing factors like bullying had a negative impact on Mohammed.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

"Actually I can't remember how I fled to Jordan", Mohammed shrugs his shoulders. He giggles, “I was asleep, I think". The reason he fled, however, is engraved in his memory: "When I was playing, I heard fighter planes and other strange noises. Then we always ran inside". The all-destructive civil war scared him. He doesn’t often think back to this unpleasant time, but he does see on the news how bad things are in Syria.

“When I was playing, I heard fighter planes and other strange noises. Then we always ran inside"
Mohammed, Syria

Dealing with bullying

Once in Jordan, he missed his family enormously. Mohammed: "Not being able to see your family for seven years is a long time.” It’s his grandparents he misses the most. "Luckily, they don't live in a place where there's a lot of violence," he says. "Children were always shouting at me: 'Hey, you're from Syria? There's a war there, you're bad news'''.

Bullying is something refugee children often have to deal with. In a new country, not everyone accepts them. In addition to confronting war and violence, they are also exposed to new stress factors such as harassment. This can only have a negative impact on their development. They can become withdrawn, overly clingy or extremely angry.

Mohammed says things are better now: "Here, I don't get bullied and I can walk to school with my little brother". Mohammed was again unlucky in that as soon as he started school, the corona crisis hit. Cora, his teacher, says: "We only had online contact with him. It was difficult for Mohammed to build a bond with other children".

After experiencing war, children can join TeamUp at School in the Netherlands to improve their psychosocial wellbeing _War Child

Due to the corona crisis Mohammed only received online education at first, which made it even more difficult for him to bond with others.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Refugee children receive psychosocial support with TeamUp ot School through play- and movement activities with War Child

TeamUp helps him to build friendschips, feel safe and express his emotions in the activities.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

TeamUp at School

Now that schools have reopened, Mohammed takes part in TeamUp's play and movement activities once a week, which help him to get in touch with other children and build friendships. An environment is created in which children feel safe, can be themselves and express their emotions in the games. "TeamUp is not about winning, because losing is also part of the game," says Mohammed.

TeamUp activities are always closed by asking the children how they are doing. There is room here for feelings to come up, such as anger, fear and joy. In this way, children learn to recognise and express their emotions. "In Syria and Jordan, they never asked me how I was," says Mohammed. According to Cora, this is very valuable for him: "He may realise that not only is learning important, but you can have fun times, and that it’s ok for him to express himself". As a result of the activities, Mohammed is becoming more free, bit by bit.

“TeamUp is not about winning, because losing is also part of the game"
Mohammed, Syria

Backed by Research

Recently, TeamUp held an evaluation to assess the quality of the programme’s implementation in schools and the possible effects on children's well-being. You can view the results here.

*All names in this story have been changed to preserve the safety of the children who take part in our programmes.