Hearing about atrocities and suffering halfway across the world doesn't tend to hit close to home. The people feel distant and the language is foreign; it's too far. Standing at the edge of the Za'atari camp in Jordan listening to the sound of explosions from just across the border in Syria, suddenly it didn't feel so far anymore. Even the distance from the camp to the border - at least eight miles - wasn't nearly enough to feel safe.
The children that I met on my recent Save the Children trip to the camp had almost forgotten how to feel safe. Although some of them told me that they feel much more secure in the camp, I was also told by others that the children are still terrified of the sound of planes flying overhead. Many of them still don't know what's happened to their families and friends back in Syria. Spending time with them inside the multi-activity centres set up by Save the Children, sometimes it was easy to forget the circumstances that had brought them here. The young women I met were vibrant, fierce and funny, with no shortage of ideas about how to fix their country. The boys tore around the football pitch at their centre, posing for the cameras and laughing together. Despite everything they'd seen and the parts of their childhoods that they'd lost, they were still just kids.
We visited the mothers of very young children at the camp's kindergarten and they told us how difficult it is to raise a child in the camp. Although they do have enough food, their children are almost always ill from the unsanitary conditions at some of the bathroom blocks. I was told that one five-year-old girl who visits the kindergarten has shrapnel in her head - it's too dangerous to remove it, so she has to learn to live with it. Another little boy is too afraid to go to school after he was threatened with a grenade down his t-shirt and told that if he ever went to school again, next time the grenade would detonate. The mothers told us countless stories of violence and danger - one had been shot through the chest and was still suffering, as she'd had the bullet removed without anaesthetic by her nephew in a field hospital.
With the current focus on military action on television and in the newspapers it's easy to get caught up in the politics of the situation in Syria, and to see the people affected only as statistics. My trip clearly demonstrated to me that no matter what the political outcome, humanitarian aid is desperately needed in Syria to help those who've been affected by the conflict. People often dismiss crises that occur in countries other than their own, but if our country was being torn apart and thousands of our children killed and scarred I can guarantee you that we'd expect others to help. We can't turn away from them because they seem so far away from us.
I'll be taking a visual petition to the United Nations next week, asking for world leaders to allow humanitarian access in Syria. To help us, tweet a photo of yourself with a sign that says "Save Syria's Children" and use the #YouTube4Syria
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