Published: Sep 10, 2012
By Patricia Mouamar
Lebanon: Uncertain future for young refugees
©2012 Patricia Mouamar/World Vision
Mahmoud, 11, at World Vision Child-Friendly Space in Lebanon.
Lebanon: Uncertain future for young refugees
©2012 Patricia Mouamar/World Vision
A social animator is telling the children a story about a healthy body.
School is a distant memory for 11-year-old Syrian refugee Mahmoud, whose days are haunted by bombs, blood, and injuries.

A few months ago, in his hometown in Syria, Mahmoud was shot  while going to buy bread.

“A cow was shot in front of me and then I was shot in my foot,” he says. “I didn’t feel anything at the beginning. People around me started screaming and telling me I am bleeding.”

He made it home with difficulty, and his foot has yet to heal.

Mahmoud is the eldest of five children and takes care of his siblings when his mother is away.

“My children started begging me to leave the country,” says Mahmoud’s mother, who asked not to give her name.

“The situation became catastrophic and unlivable. We endured until we couldn’t take it anymore. The children were so scared that their hair started to fall [out],” she says.

Carrying just their clothes, the family sought refuge in Lebanon.

“We left Syria under heavy bombing, and we reached Lebanon. We had to move out and change several shelters until we settled here,” says the mother.

Sharing their modest home with another refugee family, Mahmoud’s family has a few mattresses on the floor, a fan to get them through the suffocating heat of the Bekaa Valley, and an old TV to follow the news of Syria.

They have the basics to survive, with help from World Vision and partner organizations. The current round of assistance began in March with distribution of hygiene kits.

Asked about school, Mahmoud replies with the sarcasm of an adult: “What school are you talking about, what friends? I have nothing left.”

The children didn’t attend school last year in Syria and their mother worries that they may miss another year.

For now, she’s happy to send Mahmoud and her other son to a World Vision children’s center twice a week so they can play with other children in a safe, child-friendly environment.

World Vision operates four children’s centers in the Bekaa region to help Syrian child refugees. So far, 240 children have spent time in these safe spaces, which are equipped with games,  toys, and learning materials.

The centers give the children a sense of normalcy and routine, which are lacking while they are away from home.

“Children here have gone through a trauma. We try to gain their trust so that they open up and share their experience,” says Joelle Wakim, center coordinator.

“I like it here, the teachers play with us and have fun,” Mahmoud says.

Patricia Mouamar is a World Vision communications officer in Lebanon.

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