Background

In August 2014, ISIS terrorists overran the city of Sinjar and surrounding villages, committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Yezidi population. Men and older women were massacred, while thousands of Yezidi women and girls were captured and subjected to unspeakable acts of sexual violence and torture.

Most Yezidis from Sinjar were not captured, and fled to Mount Sinjar and eventually reached IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region. Hundreds of thousands of Yezidis have fled the ISIS attacks and were displaced in this way.

The FYF children’s center works with children between the ages of 5 and 12 in the Xanke Camp, located in the Duhok province of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

There are more than 16,000 residents in the Xanke Camp alone, with another 12,000 IDPs living in makeshift tents and unfinished buildings in adjacent areas outside the camp.

The children’s center opened in November 2015, offering a nurturing environment where children can learn, play, and have fun.

FYF Children’s Center Activities

The center provides courses for approximately 150 children per quarter, or 600 per year. The precise programs have been formatted based on the educational and emotional needs of the population. All courses have been vetted by our trauma experts to reduce trauma and suffering through simple activities such as art and music. The children’s center is decorated with colors, student’s drawings, and artwork to create a warm and nurturing environment.

The first day of every week starts with ‘social hour’. This activity is designed to facilitate expression and social cohesion in the group. Every child can introduce her/himself to the others (if he or she wishes), talk about the week, what he or she has been doing, maybe share a story, and so on. This takes place at a ‘social circle’ or sharing circle.

The center includes two classrooms with large whiteboards and desks and chairs, replete with classroom supplies, computers, projectors, and a bathroom. Ensuring a safe space is the top priority for the center, and education is the second priority. Courses include English, computers, art, music, and, of course, playtime in the FYF outdoor area.

Most children already speak Kurmanji (Kurdish) and some limited level of Arabic. The FYF center is a place to learn English, usually from the start, including letters, simple phrases, and very basic reading, writing, and vocabulary. Thus far, English language instruction has proved incredibly important for the students, even at this young age. This can be partially attributed to a wonderful group of FYF teachers and helpers. The children’s center staff are all Yezidi themselves, mostly IDPs from Sinjar, as well as a Yezidi-American. Providing children with basic skills in English and computers is an important cornerstone for their future education.

A section of one of the classrooms is dedicated to art, which is a fun and therapeutic way for children to express themselves and create something in a safe and judgment-free environment. All art supplies are restricted to this area, and when completed, children can take their artwork home or hang pieces in the center.

Unsurprisingly, the most popular part of the children’s center is the outdoor playground area. FYF built the first football pitch in the Xanke camp, as well as installing swings, monkey bars, and other outdoor play equipment. Outdoor playtime is an important part of the day for our students, and always includes the participation and oversight of children’s center staff members.