Summer camp was a joyful escape from the harsh realities of life for 2,000 Syrian young people

Over four months have passed since the devistating Feb. 6 earthquake and the countless aftershocks that followed yet the situation for the people of Syria has not improved significantly.

The war's aftermath, the economic and social crisis the country is experiencing, rising prices, lack of food, lack of work... have thrown the population into a great and widespread depressive mood, to which even children are no strangers.

Like every year, the Salesians in Syria are now preparing summer activities for children, which this year have a stated purpose: to help nearly 2,000 children, teenagers, and young people overcome the trauma caused by the earthquake.

The earthquake confirmed that Syria is indeed experiencing an emergency within an emergency - one that already existed because of the war. Salesians have opened their doors to the population and are still helping with food vouchers for those who have not yet been able to return to their homes.

Now with the first phase of the emergency almost over, that of basic aid, for the past few weeks the Salesians have been starting a second phase, focused on resuming sports and recreational activities for minors and caring for people so that they can overcome stress and trauma. Salesian Solidarity Worldwide has already raised more than two million euros for the emergency in Syria. All the projects for which these funds were raised are currently running successfully and benefiting hundreds of young people and their families.

A third phase will then be the traditional summer camps and activities in which hundreds of children always participate. On this occasion, Salesian homes in Damascus and Kafroun will welcome nearly 2,000 children between the ages of 8 and 18, to alleviate the post-traumatic stress disorder from which most of them suffer.

A study by Mariam Ghosn, a psychologist working with the Salesians in Aleppo, shows that 85 percent of the children need psychological support and that by participating in group activities and therapy for a period of time, they can heal the trauma caused by the earthquake.

A guiding theme has already been found for the summer program: "Bosco Space." For six weeks, through the stories of six children who are sent to six planets in the "Don Bosco Space," minors received in summer camps will learn six different virtues - one for each planet - that will be useful to them "when they return to Earth."

Traveling by imagination, more than 2,000 needy minors will discover the planet of Good Deeds, where they learn to share and communicate; the planet of Dreams, to pay attention to God's signs in life; the planet of Life, to learn to take responsibility; the planet of Fateful Decisions, to learn to trust and not give up; the planet of Principles, to be ethical and distinguish right from wrong; and the planet of Fulfilled Dreams, to learn by observing the beauty around us.

In offering summer camps, the Salesians include for the participating boys and girls, transportation, food, snacks, and all materials.

The minors' summer experience will end with five days of co-habitation at the Salesian work in Kafroun in what is a serene environment in the foothills of the mountains to allow the participants to assimilate and share their experiences with other minors.

With thanks to ANS for this story