20 November is Universal Children’s Day. A reminder for us to celebrate the imagination, the bravery and the incredible resilience of the children all over the world who inspire the work we do.
The date holds particular significance for Save the Children as it’s the day the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations in 1959. A document originally conceived and drafted by our founder, Eglantyne Jebb.
This year, we’re sharing the stories of some of the young people who defy expectations, often in the face of unimaginable adversity. They are the heroes of our stories. Here are just a few.
Shadia, Rama and Hatem*
Shadia was working in the field when her house was bombed. Her daughter Rama and son Hatem were inside.
‘’I was in our farm [in Syria] milking the cows when I heard a loud bang. I looked into the distance and counted five strikes. I saw our house burning.
“I conceded that my children died under the rubble. 45 minutes later, I saw my little son emerging with Rama in his arms. Those were the longest 45 minutes in my life.”
Hatem was just five years old the day he saved his sister’s life. The family now live as refugees in Lebanon. Rama has speech difficulties resulting from a ruptured eardrum but has recently begun learning to read and write.
The small town of Mersan was virtually destroyed after being smashed by the worst storm to hit Haiti in half a century. The local school, roofs blown off and littered with debris, became a temporary home for many.
Seven-year-old Daphne was able to salvage a bunch of sodden schoolbooks from the wreckage of one of her old classrooms, she picked a few out for herself.
“I hope that school will start again soon,” she told one of our health workers. “I want to be a doctor too.”
Holly used to find it hard to engage with the classroom dynamic. By early high school, she was failing all her subjects and had a history of being suspended. She enrolled in Save the Children’s ‘Out-Teach Mobile Education’ program, a mentoring and support program in Tasmania that offers a more flexible approach to learning and support for young people to help get their lives back on track.
Within a year, Holly turned things around. She’s now at college getting excellent grades in all her subjects. She’ll be the first person in her direct family to finish college.
Sunita lives in a small village in the heart of Rajasthan where 65% of girls under 18 are forced to marry. She was taken out of school when she was ten years old in preparation for marriage.
A local children’s group supported by Save the Children gave her a clearer understanding of her rights and how getting married too young might impact her life. She wouldn’t allow it to happen.
Eventually, Sunita’s father allowed her to return to school.
“I want to fight for a world in which girls have power over their own decisions. Where girls are the same as boys, and parents don’t have society pressurising them to marry their daughters,” Sunita says. “Every girl should be allowed to decide her future."
Header image: Alaa is known to his classmates as ‘The Hero’. As a five-year-old Syrian, he’s only ever known his country to be at war. After his father was killed, he was forced to flee to Lebanon with his mother and brother. Despite everything, Alaa managed to score the highest grades in his class.
*Names changed to protect their identities.