Orphans in the north, east and coastal governorates of Syria are to benefit from a Japanese grant recently given to a local NGO.
As part of the framework of Japan's ‘Grassroots Grant Assistance Scheme’, established in Syria in 1996, Azusa Hayashi, Japan's Ambassador to Syria, recently signed a grant contract totalling US $30,084, presented to the Child Care Association in the city of Aleppo, 355 km north of the capital Damascus.
“These funds aim at supporting and improving services provided to orphans who are in need of special care and making them productive members of society. The grant is a token of the friendship and distinguished relations between the Syrian and Japanese people,” Hayashi told IRIN at the signing ceremony in Damascus.
Japan is at present funding large projects in Syria, such as renovation of drinking water pipelines and furnishing large hospitals.
“However, the need for developing civil society still exists. The grants extended to NGOs will include people with special needs, orphans, the blind, deaf and disabled, elderly people, concentration on medical services in remote and poor areas and woman's empowerment,” he added.
“An orphan is a human being who is rejected by society and is deprived of parents’ care. More than 120 orphans will benefit from the project immediately,” Najwa Shanan Kayali, chairwoman of the Child Care Association, told IRIN in Aleppo.
Kayali is also the chairwoman of other charity projects in Aleppo, including the obstetrics hospital and Dar es-Saadeh home for the elderly and orphans.
"The funds will be used to improve laundry and food keeping services in the child care centre by purchasing two industrial washing machines, two industrial drying machines, refrigeration and food freezing rooms.”
Stressing that the grant was greatly needed, Kayali said it would enable the centre to solve problems it has encountered over the last three years.
“The institution received 51 orphans in 2004, however, a large number of orphans are adopted, therefore, the number of those residing in the institution is always maintained at about 130, which is the institution's full capacity,” she added.
She explained that in the past, orphans were rejected by society as they were thought to be from unrespectable families, but now people have started to embrace them.
"I keep girls here until they finish their education or learn a craft, while boys are sent to an Islamic orphans school when they reach the age of six,” she said.
The association, which has 36 employees, comprises of two buildings with dormitories. There is a physician and two nurses at hand, as well as four teachers to enhance education. In addition, there are special classes to combat illiteracy, dedicated to children with special needs.
As well as giving them confidence and some independence, the association trains girls in computer skills, nursing, and handicrafts.
Teenager Wardeh told IRIN that she hated going to school because her classmates did not accept her because she was an orphan, but that she was more comfortable learning at the association. “They [former classmates] always reminded me that I do not have parents."
Huda, 14, told IRIN she wanted to be a lawyer to defend people’s rights. “When I was 10 years old I missed my mother’s love, but now I have my mother Najwa,” she said.
“However, frankly speaking all this does not make them get rid of the complex that they do not have a family, they always miss a mother’s love,” Kayali pointed out.
The orphans will also benefit from a new project which is under construction. A 3,000 sq metre area comprising of homes to ensure family life, a clinic, in addition to a kindergarten.
Kayali urged that further attention and facilities were needed, calling for a law on the employment of orphans to ensure they have a brighter future.
“The government looks after orphan children who are given all rights and services equal to those of ordinary children,” Emad al-Ezz, Director of Social Services at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, told IRIN.
Childhood is one of the national priorities of Syria where huge efforts are being made at official and grassroots levels to build a promising future for children, al-Ezz stressed.
Japan has so far funded 56 projects in different fields targeting people with special needs, the health sector, vocational training and the environment at a cost of $2.5 million.