“I love my country, but you get to a point where you know you have to leave.”
Recalling the life she left behind in Aleppo, Donia welcomed us graciously into her home amongst a large informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley. Before fleeing to Lebanon five years ago, her husband worked in a textile factory and made good money. Their four children were in school and progressing well.
“Then bombing started in our area,” Donia said. “One day a bomb hit our house and it was destroyed. We left with nothing. We went to a nearby village, but there was bombing there also. The village was beginning to be sieged. We had to leave.”
Life Remains Hard
One would hope that after fleeing from such tragedy a family like this would get some relief. But like many, the challenges continued after arriving in Lebanon.
“When we first arrived we had to borrow money and live with other families,” Donia said. “We had to move many times. First, because our landlord kicked us off the land. Then because the landlord forced my husband to work in his farm land but did not pay him. How could we afford food or water if he could not work for a wage? My children were not in school. They were just playing in the streets because the public schools would not accept them. They missed three years of school before they were able to join the learning center here.”
Donia’s children now receive education at a learning center in the informal tented settlement supported by FH’s implementing partner, Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD).
“At first the kids were surprised to go to school because they missed school for three years,” Donia said. “We were worried it would be difficult for them, but it was a good, friendly environment. They are making up for lost years of education now. They are getting better at reading and writing and are able to catch up.”
Despite the incredible challenges Donia has faced over the past five years, she is overcoming. Her sister and a friend came by the house during our visit. The three women chatted and laughed together.
Donia works at the learning center as the cleaner now and this small income helps supplement her husband’s work as a day laborer. Life is hard but she hasn’t lost hope. “I want my kids to get a good education and live a better life. We don’t want a lost generation.”
Donia expressed her gratitude to LSESD and the local Lebanese church for opening this learning center and providing a safe, friendly environment for her children to learn. “The school came at the perfect time.” Donia didn’t explain why it was the perfect time, but my best guess after spending the afternoon with her is because it gave her and her children a bit of normalcy, a glimpse of hope that they could continue and their future was not lost.
In partnership with the Integral Alliance and the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) in Lebanon, Food for the Hungry helps provide food, shelter, hygiene kits, educational assistance, child-friendly spaces, psychosocial support and more. To learn more and to help with this life-saving work go to www.fh.org/syria.