20. November 2019
Accompanied by my guide Fawzi, we left Baadre City and headed to the big Baadre refugee camp, home to 15,000 Yazidi refugees. I didn’t even want to imagine what all these people had experienced at the hands of the Islamic State militants. ISIS treated the Yazidis worst of all.
Then Fawzi suddenly stopped, and to our left a gate opened: I found myself gazing into a mini paradise. It was green and beautiful, with children playing in a playground, laughing and singing; they waved to me as I arrived. I was led into a kind of container building and received very kindly by a number of women. I could hear the voices and laughter of children everywhere. Helen, who heads up this centre for war orphans, asked me into her office. She talked to me about the facility and showed me around the classrooms.
The children greeted me happily. There were artworks on the walls and other beautiful pictures. All of the children had quality educational materials and were busy working either on their own, in pairs or in groups.
Most of all I was impressed by the Montessori class: it was pretty quiet as all the children were concentrating hard, working with various different Montessori materials. These are designed in such a way that the children immediately understand what they have to do. So the tasks are self-explanatory. Once they’ve finished the current task, they put the materials back on the shelf and get something new out. It was fascinating to see all the children working in such an orderly and peaceful manner and concentrating hard. They were enjoying what they were doing and clearly felt honoured, loved and in a good place.
I tried to capture as much as I could with my camera. In the other classrooms too, the children were very much engaged in what they were doing and full of enthusiasm. Suddenly we heard loud music coming from the playground outside. Some of the children were dancing energetically and doing actions to the song, clearly having a lot of fun. Others were jumping on the trampoline. I would like to have stayed there the whole day but I knew we had more to see. The images of all the happy-looking children stayed with me for a long time.
As did the words of Helen, the leader of the children’s centre: “It was my dream that these children, who were freed from the hands of ISIS and who lost their parents, would be able to find a place full of love and joy. We give them the love they need and teach them Christian values such as mutual respect, help in difficult times, comfort and encouragement. My staff are also Yazidi refugees from the camp. They are already trained teachers and regularly receive further training. In the 18 months since this centre has existed, I have seen a huge change in the children. Their eyes now shine again, something they had lost through their terrible experiences with the ISIS militants.”
Later I heard that some of these children were born of rape, the sons and daughters of Yazidi girls and women who were held as sex slaves by ISIS militants.