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Safe spaces

A girl from Syria finds a refuge from war

Shaimah, from Syria, has one simple wish for the future.

“I just want to complete my education and live peacefully, and not hear the sound of bombs anymore,” she says.

For over six months, the 15 year old has been staying in the Cherso refugee camp in northern Greece with her aunt and uncle.

It's hard living in constant uncertainty. That's why Shaimah is glad there's a place in the camp where she can always go to have fun with her friends, do arts and crafts, and learn new things.

Girls sit in a circle playing a game in a tent that serves as an IRC "safe space" in a refugee camp in Greece.

Shaimah and her classmates play a game in one of the IRC’s safe spaces in Cherso refugee camp in northern Greece.

Photo: E. Robinson for the IRC

The International Rescue Committee runs seven of these “safe spaces” for women and girls in Greece, so that teenagers like Shaimah who have had their childhood stolen by war can feel safe, secure and supported. 

“I really like my teachers,” says Shaimah. “If they see that one of us is in a bad mood, they always try to lift our spirits and make us feel better.”

Shaimah wants to be a teacher herself when she gets older, and to work with refugees. She says her favorite subject is English.

Going to classes at the safe space restores a comforting routine Shaimah and the other girls lost when they had to leave school back in Syria. Instead of sitting alone in a tent, they can study or play games with their friends, and together begin to heal from the pain of war and imagine a better future.

“I love coming here each day,” Shaimah says. “When I wake up I think how excited I am. I rush to all my friends’ tents to wake them up so that we can go to the safe space.” 

Read more about Shaimah and the IRC safe spaces for women and girls in Greece at Rescue-UK.org.