Mental impact of flights: ‘I was grateful, but also very lonely’ | sponsored

Seedra (24) fled Syria three years ago with her mother and two sisters. “It was a tough journey,” said Seedra. “We went from Syria to Iran and from Iran to Turkey. We stayed there for a while, hoping to take a boat to Greece. We sometimes slept nights in a row in a forest. The only things I had were the clothes I was wearing, pajamas and a few shirts. Sometimes we had to walk for five hours to get to a place where we could get water or food. We flew from Athens to the Netherlands, all in separate flights with a week in between.”

Separated from each other

Once in the Netherlands, Seedra and her family ended up in different asylum seekers’ centers, she says: “We lived in seven different centers in total. The tricky part is that at that moment you need stability, but that is not possible. We have been separated a few times. Fortunately, the four of us now have a home.”

Lonely in a foreign land

Starting all over again in a foreign country with a culture and language you don’t know, how do you do that? Seedra and her family found a lot of support in each other. “It has two sides: you are so grateful in that moment that you are safe and with your family. At the same time it is very lonely. We didn’t know anyone here and didn’t speak the language. That was very difficult. We dragged each other through it. Our house sometimes seems like a small school. We regularly study together and have a rule during dinner: we talk Dutch for half an hour. In the evenings we often play games, such as Scrabble. That makes it more fun to learn the language.”

Don’t sit at home crying

Seedra knows better than anyone how important it is to pay attention to mental health. “I tried to keep busy. I didn’t want to sit at home crying about what happened to me. I started to delve into mindfulness and meditation, but my biggest support was TeamUp.” With this program, Save the Children offers mental support to refugee children. The organization believes in the resilience of children. In order to process bad experiences, they need to feel heard and seen. Through play and exercise activities, they learn to deal with their emotions at TeamUp, they gain confidence and they get the chance to rebuild a social life.

Seedra: “TeamUp has given me back the right to lead a meaningful life.”

Seedra: “TeamUp has given me back the right to lead a meaningful life.”

Right to a meaningful life

Seedra and her thirteen-year-old sister have both benefited greatly from TeamUp. Seedra: “I believe very much in this program. My sister was always afraid to meet new people. That fear is now much less. She can express herself a lot better and she can handle her emotions a lot better. I like to see that. I myself have been a supervisor at TeamUp for a few years now. I think it’s fantastic to do. Not only can I help others, but I also benefit a lot from it myself. TeamUp has given me back the right to lead a meaningful life. This is what I needed to feel at home in the Netherlands. The people of TeamUp are like a second family to me.”

Helping other people

Seedra is so enthusiastic about TeamUp that she is going for a career switch. “I was studying to become a dentist in Syria. I initially planned to do the Dentistry course in the Netherlands, but now I’m going to start Psychology in January. I changed my mind by TeamUp. I enjoy helping other people so much. And I believe in the value of good mental health. If you pay a lot of attention to that, other aspects in your life will also get better. That’s why I hope that more people can be helped by TeamUp. All refugee children deserve that.”

Save the Children is committed to healthy mental development for all children. Would you like to know more about TeamUp and the other great initiatives of the children’s rights organization? You can read more about it on the website van Save the Children.

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