Recently, I came across some World Vision photos from Aleppo, Syria in 2000. In the fuzzy images, Syrian children are happily singing in their church choir, studying at their desks, and interacting with their teachers and pastors.
Those photos haunt me. In 2000, I was a 13 year-old kid doing those same things. I loved singing, reading, and going to my weekly youth group at church. Those Syrian children and I were living parallel lives, and I didn’t even realize it.
The young people in the photos have grown up just like me, but where are they now? Have they fled their homes as bombs drop daily? What has become of their classrooms and their church? Do they have families to protect now, and children who have known nothing but war?
It has been six years since the Syria conflict broke out. While I have finished university, started my career, and gotten married, the lives of millions of Syrian children have been torn apart.
Lives like Ahmad, a 13-year-old refugee boy living in Lebanon.
A burden no child should bear
“I had a daily thought, every morning, that this day would be our last day alive,” he remembers. Even when his family fled Syria in 2013, Ahmad could not rid himself of that fear.
When I was 13, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t fit in at my new school. Ahmad can’t go to school at all. “Fitting in” at a refugee camp involves doing whatever you can to help your family stay alive, and as the oldest child, that heavy burden was on Ahmad’s shoulders.
But his story doesn’t end there. After some time in the Lebanese refugee camp in Beqaa Valley, Ahmad’s mother learned of World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces (CFS). There, children aged six to twelve are provided with fun activities, and psychosocial support to cope with the trauma they have been through.
Ahmad and his three siblings enrolled, and Ahmad discovered that he loved to draw. “I never had a hobby before,” he says.
The gift of hope
Now, Ahmad still practices his drawing every day, and says it takes his mind off his family’s precarious situation.
“People [at the CFS] tried to help us forget the brutality of the war, and they succeeded,” he tells us.
The kindness of donors like those in Canada has given Ahmad a cherished pastime, as well as a chance to heal, and maybe, even dream of a future. Canadians also continue to help provide life essentials like food, water, shelter and protection, when none of these things are otherwise available.
If you feel moved to help in creating a different future for Syrian children, please consider donating today, through World Vision’s Raw Hope pledge or one-time gift.
You can also host a Refugee Sunday with your church family, and make serving Syrian children and families a community effort.
After six years of violence, Syrian children need us to believe in them more than ever. We must ensure that an entire generation of children with dreams for the future doesn’t get lost in the rubble.
I have been allowed to grow up in peace into a future that allows me to work for my dreams. Syrian children deserve the same.
Written with files from Josephine Haddad.