14 July 2017

How Syrian Child Refugees Return to Normality thanks to the ESSN

You may not have heard of the ESSN.  The four letters stand for the Emergency Social Safety Net and is a programme which helps the most vulnerable people who have sought refuge in Turkey through an ingenious method enabled by modern technology.  More about the illustrations you can see a little later...

Funded by the European Union and the UN World Food Programme, ESSN furnishes refugee families with a debit card.  Each month an allowance of 28 Euros per family member is placed on the card which means the family can then afford to get back on their feet.

The part of the scheme that I particularly like is that this then gives the parents the choice of what they purchase with their allowance.  As anyone who has raised a family will be able to tell you, needs constantly change and the flexibility this cash gives refugee families means that they can buy shoes (for example) when they are needed rather than wait for someone to provide them (and the speed at which little feet grow might mean that by the time new shoes arrived they could well be too small!).

It also gives the parents the opportunity to provide their children with the means to play and have fun – hugely important for children everywhere who learn best through fun and games but even more so for refugee children whose experiences may well have had an impact on their mental health and who can help get back to a sense of normality by having… fun!

To celebrate this wonderful humanitarian scheme, the organisers have teamed up with a host of childrens’ book illustrators from across Europe.  The pictures, some of which you can see on this post (and the rest are on the ESSN site here) emphasise the importance of the everyday: things which we might take for granted give refugee children a sense of normality and a sense of home.  It could be a teddy bear, a pair of shoes or simply a toothbrush.  Yet as Vincent van Gogh once wrote, great things are done by a series of small things brought together.  I think one can assume that he would have wholeheartedly approved of the ESSN and its art project.