Ali Ahmad was walking with his young son one evening after dark. It was after they had fled Aleppo, Syria, and begun their lives as refugees in southern Turkey. It was a clear, starry night, reports the Catholic News Service.
'He looks up at the stars and he says, 'Dada, are they coming to bomb us?' I, I....' Ahmad could not finish the sentence. Even if his English was better, how could a father explain that his son is afraid of the stars?
'All of us Syrians, we need psychologists. All of us. We have seen our houses destroyed, all kinds of things,' Ahmad said over lunch with the staff at Malteser International's new joint project with the International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation in Kilis. The two international aid organizations -- one German Catholic and the other Turkish Muslim -- have come together to launch a 28-bed mobile hospital in the border town where locals say the normal population of 88,000 has nearly doubled with the influx of refugees.
Ahmad is head nurse at the mobile hospital, which officially opened on September 13. The doctors, nurses and support staff at the new hospital are all Syrian. They all left Syria reluctantly, fleeing the fighting that began in 2011. They saw the hospitals where they worked bombed, homes where they lived destroyed and sniper fire in Aleppo picking off one or two random civilians per day.
The trauma of seeing their country torn apart by a war they see as neither necessary nor resolvable has hit their children hardest. "We adults, we can cope 80 percent," said Syrian English teacher and translator Ole Nasser.
The grownups can fall back on their roles as teachers, doctors, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. But the children have no mask to hide behind, she said. Few of them can imagine a future when images of destruction, randomness and death make up so much of their childhood experience, Nasser said.