The February earthquake…a painful memory and an inspiring story

“Suddenly, the ground and everything around me began to shake. I felt its intensity increase with every second. I expected this to end quickly, but it lasted a long time. My family and I ran to the hallway of our house, as we do in moments of bombing, every time.” 


This is how Zeinab, a dental student and a member of the protection team at Violet organization, recounts her first moments with the earthquake. 

“I start my morning every day either by following up on my work with the Violet Protection team or by focusing on my education to achieve my dream of graduating from the field of dentistry. I work on providing PSS activities, which are psychological support activities offered to children and various age groups either through awareness sessions or recreational activities for the residents of northern Syria, creating safe conditions that help them achieve psychological safety under the difficult circumstances experienced in the areas. 

November 6th.. The first moments of the earthquake 

In the early hours of Monday, November 6th last year, I was already awake, as I had been up all night studying for my exams – the exams that, if I excel, would bring me one step closer to graduation and one step closer to achieving my dream of practicing dentistry. While I was sitting at my desk trying to finish my study syllabus, I began to feel the ground and everything around me shaking. I thought the situation would not last long, but it increased in strength without stopping. The electricity was cut off in the area, and my room fell into darkness. I ran directly to the hallway of the house, as I usually do on the days of bombing we live through. My family and I did not go outside then; we waited for it to end, and I went back to my desk, my body still shaking, to continue my studies. There was no access to communication and the internet then, but what I could not imagine was that those moments we lived through caused the loss of thousands of lives and the destruction of homes around us. My house was not severely damaged, except that the wall we were leaning near had cracked slightly. 

Zeinab’s journey in responding with Violet. 

Ibrahim, the protection coordinator, contacted us and informed us of a response for our affected people. I joined the team, and we immediately started working. I remember the road we passed through to the city of Jindires, one of the most affected areas, as we were shocked by the extent of the damage and saw buildings shaking from the movement of the air and others toppling just by leaning something light on them. Those scenes took me back to the first moments of the earthquake and affected me deeply. Professor Ibrahim did not hesitate to support us with all means to lift our spirits and provide the necessary support for the families and children. The team’s spirit was the biggest force for the continuation of our work; some of our colleagues had relatives and friends under the rubble and severely affected, we all united to support them and alleviate their pain. 

Supporting children and embracing their panic 

Upon our arrival at the shelters, we saw scared, isolated children. Some of them talked about feeling dizzy as if the earthquake never stopped, and another child pointed us to his house, which had claimed the lives of his father and mother. So, we took on the responsibility of cheering up those children by playing with them, presenting gifts, and providing psychological support activities. We held a carnival for the children and presented many recreational activities, which are one of the psychological support activities, in addition to the theater activity, which helps them improve their morale and overcome the moments of panic they experienced. For children who showed symptoms of trauma and severe psychological problems, we provided special care and long-term monitoring of their condition through individual sessions and many other activities. 


“What scared me the most and besieged my thoughts was that with every passing hour, we were losing more lives under the rubble.” 

Creating a safe space for them 

We primarily focused on the privacy of women and creating a safe space that enables them to express their fears, their pains, and the new place they must accept away from the external environment. I noticed that women had more problems than others; their fear was not limited to themselves but also for their children and how to protect them from all this tragedy. We worked on awareness sessions that help them adapt to the environment and alleviate their suffering. 

Special activities for families 

I provided special sessions with a resilience program for dealing with disasters for families. These sessions enable parents to recognize their role towards children during disasters through visits to families that we started from the first days of the earthquake. One of the biggest problems those families were facing was the separation of the father from the family, as the shelters were divided into a section for men and another for women and their children. 


“The affected families are from us, and we are from them. If we do not stand by them in those moments, then why do we exist?” 

Zeinab after the disaster.. A story of heroism and success 

I never imagined that despite the pain inside me, I would be able to bring smiles to the faces of children and support and assist families. This catastrophe presented a level of tragedy and suffering I had never seen before, but the drive to uplift those who were weaker than me was greater than to surrender to the disaster. 

A month after the disaster, education resumed, and I returned to the exams again. This time was different as I was in pain and exhausted; I could not gather the necessary strength to complete my education. I tried hard not to fail, but our souls were tired from what they saw and experienced. Our return to life as before was very difficult, but our days continue, and we must gather ourselves to complete our journey. I am now studying my last year before graduation and completing my education successfully and with distinction. I learned from the earthquake that no matter how difficult the circumstances are, we must face them by working hand in hand and strive to develop and enhance myself so that I can face all situations. 


“Many days after the disaster,  I was walking in the street and suddenly a girl ran to me and hugged me. I did not remember her, but she told me that I came to them during the earthquake, played with them, and brought them gifts. I was very happy then and truly felt that I had left a beautiful impact.” 

A wish and a dream 

I hope this year ends with me achieving the dream of graduation that I have strived towards for years, and that I never hesitate for a moment to develop myself and raise my skills in the protection field so that I can always make a difference and change. 


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