“I want to play every day, and learn more and more”, says Maher. Credit: SIF/Homs/2017
Maher Al-Halabi  is a 16-year-old from Homs. He was deprived of oxygen at birth, leading to long-term physical and mental disabilities. In 2011, a then 10-year-old Maher was living with his family in the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs city. That year, he lost his father amidst the widespread destruction in many Homs city neighborhoods. Maher and his five siblings were forced to leave their home with their mother, who became the head of the family.
After over six years of armed conflict in Syria, 6.5 million people including 2.8 million children are internally displaced. About 2.4 million displaced people need shelter assistance.
In Homs Governorate alone, over half a million of internally displaced people (IDP) were forced to flee their homes and seek protection. As of end of 2016, over a million people in the Governorate need protection and humanitarian assistance.
Maher’s family was forced to displace several times, settling in a school used as a collective shelter. At the school, the family shared a limited space with many other displaced families, lacking even the most basic necessities. Seeking better living conditions, Maher’s family eventually moved to the Khadija AlKobra school - one of seven shelter schools rehabilitated by the international non-governmental organization ‘Sercous Islamique – France’ or SIF.
Supported by the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), SIF aims to provide shelter and protection to 1,063 vulnerable internally displaced people (IDPs). With the goal to secure and structurally appropriate living spaces, the shelter also provides protection from weather conditions, privacy and dignity to the 245 families who had to evacuate from collective shelters in Al-Inshaa’t neighborhood and Al-Dablan. Women and children, such as Maher and his family, are in particular need of such support, as they are likely to spend more time at home and are therefore more affected by inappropriate shelter options.
The Child Friendly Center available within the shelter provides support to children and adolescents who are physically, psychologically and socially affected by the crisis. The Child Friendly Space provides a safe environment for children to play, learn and interact with their peers. Since settling at the Khadija AlKobra School, Maher’s health has improved. In this new environment, residents have noticed that Maher has become more outgoing and even rushed to help a new family that recently moved into the shelter. “I want to play every day, and learn more and more,” Maher said.
 Not his real name