It’s been a challenging start to the new decade.

First, we were faced with the devastating bushfires, then, escalating violence in Syria forced more families into new depths of uncertainty and suffering, and now the coronavirus pandemic. 

It’s easy to get swallowed up in the doom and gloom. But while the world is facing incredible uncertainty, beautiful things continue to take place every day. Every day, actions prove that people are good. 

Ruth, a caregiver at the Ebola Treatment Centre of Butembo, kisses seven-month-old Christ-Vie, whose mother died of the illness just days earlier. © UNICEF/UN0311502/Tremeau


1. The survivors caring for children orphaned by Ebola


Kavira is an Ebola survivor. She has antibodies in her system that protect her against re-infection. Because she can not be re-infected she has become a caretaker for children whose parents have passed away or are undergoing treatment for Ebola. 

She feeds, plays, and bathes children like six-month-old Josue, whose mother died from Ebola and whose father is still undergoing treatment.

In the middle of the deadly Ebola outbreak, UNICEF and partners have opened nurseries next to Ebola treatment centres in Beni and Butembo where survivors, like Kavira, provide the love and attention children need in their parents’ absence. 
Ebola survivor Kavira feeds, plays, and bathes children like six-month-old Josue, whose mother died from Ebola and whose father is still undergoing treatment.© UNICEF/UN0264159/Hubbard
A plastic sheet separates five-month-old Guerrishon from his mother, Collette, who is a patient at an Ebola Treatment Centre in Beni, North Kivu province. © UNICEF/UNI312397/Nybo

 

2. The women helping mothers when they need it most


Child birth can be frightening. Especially for mothers like Jovita who have to walk several hours through Papua New Guinea's rough, jungle terrain to reach the nearest health clinic. 

Luckily, they are not alone. 

When Jovita started feeling contractions in the early hours of the morning her husband called Rosalie - their local village health volunteer. Thanks to UNICEF-supported training, Rosalie knows how to care for newborns and mothers, how to recognise danger signs in pregnancy, and how to resuscitate a newborn.

The volunteers not only accompany mothers on their trips to the health centre, but they also conduct community meetings in rural villages to teach mums about maternal and newborn healthcare (both immediately after birth and during the first few days) and about the importance of using kangaroo care - or skin-to-skin contact - to prevent hypothermia in newborns. 

Jovita, a day after giving birth to her daughter, Aggie-Shu. © UNICEFAustralia/Ziaziaris
Village health volunteers are vital for mothers in guiding them through pregnancy before, during and after. © UNICEF/Australia/Ziaziaris


3. The community that rallies to bring joy to children

In Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, a large camp is home to more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees. First, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children and their families fled mass killings, torture and violence. Then, monsoon rains brought further destruction.

But the devastation did not stop this community from finding joy. 

Locals came together to build a home-made ferris wheel for children to enjoy during Eid al-Ftr continuing celebrations in Balukhali, part of the mega refugee camp. 

Children enjoy a home-made ferris wheel in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. © UNICEF/UN0219110/Modola
Girls play on a hand-made ferris wheel in the Rohingya camps, Bangladesh. © UNICEF/UN0219071/Modola


4. The Syrian refugee who wants to give back

“When their boat arrived, everyone looked pale and afraid and this boy was the only one with a big smile,” says Kinan, who travelled from his home in Belgium to help families arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos.

“I did this because I am myself a refugee and I know this feeling very well,” he says. “Now it's time for me to give them something back. Many refugees were surprised, but they were happy at the same time when they found out that I was Syrian. They are my brothers and sisters in humanity.”
 
“I always try to welcome them with smiling face because I think that will make them comfortable,” says volunteer Kinan. © UNICEF/UNI197517/Gilbertson VII Photo


5. The volunteers who created happiness for children underneath a warzone

For the past nine years millions of children have paid the ultimate price of a war created by adults. They have often been without regular humanitarian aid, basic supplies and a sense of safety.

Yaseen, an architecture student in Damascus was frustrated with the idea of a generation of Syrians growing up without play. So he, and a group of young volunteers, came up with an innovative solution: to create a place just for children to be children.

The creation of the playground wasn’t easy. It took two years for Yaseen and his friends to build the Land of Childhood from two bare basements.

“We dug a tunnel to create a safe connection between the two basements and decorated it with coloured lights and some toys,” says Yaseen. “We wanted to transform the tunnel from being a place associated with attacks, fear and horror to a fun place that engages children as they pass through it.”  

Two girls play at the 'Land of Childhood' underground playground in a besieged town in in the Syrian Arab Republic. © UNICEF/UN041515/Alshami

Despite everything, people like Yaseen used their courage and creativity to help children lead lives that are as close to ‘normal’ as possible. 
"My mom doesn't allow me to play in the street with the neighbours' children, but
when she learnt that this place is underground she let me come here to play."
  
Syrian children don't normally feel safe in tunnels - but here, children run gleefully through them. © UNICEF/UN041522/Alshami
As children wait in line for fairy floss, another six million wait for humanitarian aid, uncertain of when they'll be able to play safely outside, let alone when the war will end, and when their childhood can resume. © UNICEF/UN041524/Alshami


6. The Greek barber who gives free haircuts to young refugees




Vasily, a greek barber, volunteers and offers free haircuts to refugees in Greece in order to help them stay clean. His 'customers' like the hair styles of famous footballers. 

Vasily says he is now an expert at the Cristiano Ronaldo look. 

“I do my best to help them,” says Vasily.


7. The caseworker making families whole again


“I create a special bond with these children," says UNICEF caseworker Simon Char.
"When they see me they often come running towards me, hugging me. I’m almost like their father while we are looking for the real parents."

Five-year-old Nyajiper has been separated from her parents for more than four years. Recently her father was found in Bor and Nyajiper will be reunited with him in just a few weeks.

"I’ve told her that she will soon be with her family and she is very excited,” Simon says.
 
"The best part of my job is when I see the reunited family happy and smiling together."   
Caseworker Simon Char talks to five-year-old Nyajiper. © UNICEF/UN0256297/Ryeng
© UNICEF/UN0256301/Ryeng

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