The little girl in frilly white socks speaks confidently into the microphone as her classmates stand behind her on stage.
At the concert to mark children’s day in a small city outside Tirana, Albania, there was little to distinguish the six-year-old from her peers as they danced to bright music in the school auditorium.
But to the teachers and support workers who knew her personal circumstances, it was a moment of pride. Just over a year ago, the girl had been in a camp for families of foreign fighters in Al Hol, Syria. She had been born to an Albanian mother, speaking Arabic as her mother tongue.
“To see, myself, how far the children have come—from arriving in Albania to a year later—is very gratifying,” says Sindi Shahu, Project Assistant for the Counselling Line for Women and Girls (CLWG), an NGO supported by the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF).
GCERF, a GCTF Inspired Institution, funds CLWG, Terre Des Hommes and the Institute for Democracy and Mediation to provide services for returnees, covering housing, educational and medical needs to facilitate a smooth transition back into Albanian society. The Coordination Center for Countering Violent Extremism manages the overall response, liaising between government, security actors and social services.
Each return triggers a unique response. “Everything starts with an evaluation of their needs. So for each child, there is an individual protection and reintegration plan developed,” says Blerta Mano, Program Manager at Terre Des Hommes.
To minimize hardship, care is taken to keep details of the lives they led in Syria confidential.
The Head of Child Protection in the Municipality of Tirana, Jonita Kabashi, who leads case management, has witnessed transformations in the people who returned a year ago. “Now they have identity. Now they have medical care. Now they have safe accommodation,” she emphasizes, “They can enjoy their childhood.”
At the concert, a small group of girls returns to the stage to dance in traditional costume, waving handkerchiefs to a crowd of parents clapping in time.
Read more GCERF Snap Shots here.
GCERF is a GCTF Inspired Institution. The Inspired Institutions are independent organizations that complement the Forum’s mission and reinforce the practical use of GCTF resources across the globe.
Photo Credit: Photo provided by GCERF