Saleh gives his teacher a high-five after successfully counting to ten in English

Under the unforgiving sun in Jordan’s barren desert, 36,000 people seek shelter at Azraq Refugee Camp from Syria’s eight-year conflict. But in the midst of a lifeless desert, springs an oasis of hope through the World Vision Centre that seeks to educate young children and provide them with a safe place to be kids.

Five-year-old Saleh has attended World Vision’s Early Childhood Education Centre at Azraq for one year. His eyes light up as he describes his favourite part of the day. “Before I came to the centre, I didn’t have any friends. I sat at home doing nothing,” says Saleh. “Now I wake up early every day and am excited to go to the centre to play with my new friends. My favourite activities at the centre are drawing and singing.” Like many other parents in Syria, Saleh’s father, Khaled decided to make the perilous journey with his family to the Jordanian border in search of safety.

“We had a great life in Syria. We were doing okay financially, and we had a happy family life,” he explains. “But when the war reached our hometown near Aleppo, I knew I had to get my family out of there before anything bad happened.”Almost half of the residents at Azraq are children. When not in school, kids often have little opportunity to leave their homes. Providing a safe space for the children to learn and have fun has become fundamental to the well-being of not only the children in the camp, but also to parents like Khaled.

“Saleh was a shy child and he had very low self-confidence,” says Khaled. “But now when he comes back from World Vision’s centre, he is full of energy and strength. He says he wants to be a teacher when he grows up and that fills me with hope for the future.”

As well as teaching academic lessons, the centre places an emphasis on developing self-confidence and the children’s ability to interact with each other.“Since I started teaching Saleh, I have seen his confidence grow every day,” explains Ansam, Saleh’s Teacher at the World Vision Early Childhood Education Centre.

“Many of the children at the centre are very shy when they start, but we try to change that with fun group activities and various encouragement methods such as putting a star sticker on their heads when they have done well.”

Photography by Daniel Wheeler - World Vision International