Kirkuk, the area of our activities, is located in northern Iraq and has a complicated ethnic composition due to its historical background. The so-called “Islamic State” emerged around 2013 and killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq. About six million people, approximately 15% of the total population have become refugees or displaced persons, and 1.41 million people still cannot come back home as of January 2020. Even now, sporadic battles continue, and many people, particularly children, are experiencing significant trauma. Statistics show rapid increase of suicide among the young generation. We have been supporting the local community in Kirkuk with a local partner organization INSAN since 2009.
Outline of the Activities
In cooperation with INSAN, we carried out the following programs 23 times from October 1 through December 5 in 2019 for the children in Kirkuk, to offer a place where they can safely gather and to deliver mental care for those who suffer from the trauma of conflicts. Participants were 56 children aged from 6 to 13 years old. Of these, 35 were Arab, 16 were Kurdish, and 5 were Turkish. 33 children were displaced, and the proportion of girls and boys was the same (28 each).
- Under the circumstances, the wounds of conflict remain, so we provided a place where children of different ethnic groups can gather at ease, interact, and learn about human rights and peaceful coexistence through art and music activities.
- With the participation of a psychological counselor, we carried out mental care six times. We figured out that special care was required for 13 children, so we visited their homes and counseled them.
- We carried out parent-teacher meetings three times during the period. They were good opportunities to convey peaceful coexistence to them and let them know each other across barriers such as ethnic groups, denominations, and personal situations such as displaced persons or local residents.
Children who have lost their safe place in the conflict have gradually regained mind stability and self-esteem by spending their time at ease. Moreover, children who have different backgrounds and have few opportunities to meet each other, deepened their understanding of each other through sharing experiences. “Buds of coexistence” are emerging across ethnic and cultural differences. We could see the changes; for example, previously restless children could sit calmly and became able to listen to the story, and children who were not interested in art or music became more interested by mental care. The changes might be small, but this activity will have a lifelong impact on the participated children. We believe that they will help bring peace to Iraq and the Middle East when they grow up.
“I’m in charge of the mental care of children in Peace Yard. Through this activity, I feel a certain change in the behavior and way of thinking of children. This is even a small step but I’m sure that this activity will change the roots of their personality.”
[Source: JVC Annual Report 2019]Share This: