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The Rome children's hospital Bambino Gesu and the John Paul II Foundation have launched a project to help Syrian children suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through play spaces and workshops focusing on emotions.



War leaves deep scars, not only on bodies, but also on the minds of those affected, especially children. Through workshops and play spaces focusing on emotions and specialized training for those working in the sector, Rome's Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital and the John Paul II Foundation are trying to help Syrian children suffering from post-traumatic stress.The project is called "PTSD for an Entire Generation of Children."

The three-year-long project will be implemented in Homs, Aleppo and Damascus with the aim of reducing the effects of stress at emotional, cognitive, psycho-pathological and behavioral levels through workshops to foster children's self-expression and positive relationships.

Presenting the initiative in Rome, the director of the Bambino Gesu hospital, Gabriella Enoc, said in Rome that the project was meant to give hope to the young in the war-torn country. "Children do not need only schools, clothes and food. They also need moral and psychiatric support," added Monsignor Luciano Giovannetti, head of the John Paul II Foundation.

"Between 20 and 80 of refugees in the world suffer from PTSD," said Professor Federico Vigevano, director of the neuroscience department of the children's hospital. "Over half the cases are minors," he added.

"Wounds can exist even if they are not seen externally," Father Firas Lutfi, superior of the Franciscan community at the Terra Sancta College of Aleppo said. "The children have often told us that they feel alone and abandoned... We must intervene to change the future of the little ones, to tell them that life is benevolent and not only a threat. The result of what we do will remain with them."

Father Toufic Bou Merhi, Guardian of the Beirut Terra Sancta Convent, talked about when he asked two children from a refugee camp what they wanted to do when they grew up. "Sami, five, said he wanted to be a fighter like his father in Syria. Fatima, 12, said she did not want to do anything because she did not want to grow up. Killing a child's dreams means killing a person," he said.

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