This post is part of the Relay for Kids in partnership with SOS Children's Villages. Each time you share this post, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action) to support children worldwide affected by crisis. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.
In 2012, my children and I awoke to the sound of heavy clashes erupting outside of our home in Qudsaya, Syria. We could hear the sound of bullets and gunfire dangerously close to us. I was scared and on the verge of tears, but I refused to let my children see me cry. I thought that if I showed them I was brave, it would make them feel safe and protected. I kept whispering to them that the fighting would stop and that we would be all right.
Not long after we heard the first gunshots, someone came on a megaphone and said that all civilians had an hour to clear the location. Our home and its surroundings were now considered a war zone. This one-hour ceasefire gave my family and me some time to pick up our belongings and make our way to Sahnaya, a city in southern Syria, until it was safe enough to return back home.
This was a terrifying moment in my life that no one -- especially no child -- should ever experience. The reality is that in my country there are currently 5.6 million children who have been affected by the conflict. Many live in poverty and have been displaced from their homes. These children are growing up in a constant state of insecurity, and some have witnessed the deaths of their parents and have lived in active war zones. Displaced and separated from parents and loved ones, some of these children are without the documentation needed to trace the whereabouts of their families.
For the past 20 years, I have been an SOS Mother at SOS Children's Villages, and I've never had to be braver than I am today. Since the start of the conflict four years ago, I have come into contact with children who have lost their loved ones and homes to the war. When they first arrive in our village, many experience trauma, bed-wetting and malnutrition -- effects caused by the shock of being forced to flee their homes, sometimes multiple times. Some have a hard time communicating, while others go into detail about the horrific things they have seen.
I remember how full of energy children were before the conflict; they went to school, played and chatted together. Today, they are left wondering what happened to the places and people they once knew. It pains me not to be able to answer whether they will ever see their families and friends again. For example, a 6-year-old boy in the village has told me numerous times about a recent visit to his home in which he found that all of his teddy bears had been burned.
This is not the kind of world this boy, my children, or any children should live in. A child deserves to be happy and carefree. A child does not deserve to experience the effects of war.
The best I can do as a mother is give these children the care and attention needed to help them overcome these traumatic experiences. I do my best to give them the stability of a loving family. I hold them close during their best and worst days. I comfort them whenever they cry and are in pain. This is the type of support that all children living in conflict need but don't always have. A child needs shelter, food and medicine to survive, but they also need love.
Children in Syria have witnessed things no child should ever see. Their hearts have suffered through what no child should ever experience. These children are the future of Syria and have the ability to play a major role in the future peace and stability of our country. It is our responsibility to do all we can -- particularly during these most difficult times -- to provide them with the love and care they need and deserve.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
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Johnson & Johnson, SOS Children's Villages and The Huffington Post created the Relay for Kids to support children around the world who have been affected by poverty, conflict, disease and natural disasters. Visit www.sos-usa.org/relayforkids to learn more.
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Editor's Note: SOS Children's Villages is a partner of Johnson & Johnson, which is a sponsor of The Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section.