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Syrian refugee children get 5,000 teddy bears, thanks to SF woman

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Posted on: November 17, 2017
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When San Francisco resident Samantha Grier sees photos of Syrian children in refugee camps half a world away, the images take her back to her childhood in New Jersey, a period she remembers for the neglect and loneliness she endured. The stuffed animals are set to be shipped sometime this month, and she hopes they will give the young recipients a sense of home and comfort as they cope with displacement, conflict and trauma. A civil war in Syria started when pro-democracy protests against President Bashar Assad erupted in 2011 — ultimately leading to countless lives lost and prompting many families to flee the country. Grier, who studied child development and trauma at the National Institute of Mental Health and previously worked as a social worker, didn’t grow up in a war zone. […] she recalls living in constant fear as rumors would swirl in her household of alleged sightings of Nazi submarines along the New Jersey shoreline during the height of World War II. Through her organization, Grier has sent teddy bears to not only refugee children, but also those in orphanages and in foster care around the world — from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Mexico and as far as Australia. Sometimes, something as simple as a toy can help a child considerably in bringing them a semblance of normalcy in settings of trauma and conflict, said Emily Brouwer, the managing director of the northwest region for UNICEF USA. UNICEF supports children around the world by creating child-friendly spaces filled with toys where youngsters can fill in coloring books and play ball. “We got reports back from orphanages that when the child uses a teddy bear, the bed wetting goes down, the nightmares go down and the aggressive behavior goes down,” Grier said.

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