Syria Crisis: A Piece of Me
Lamis, 22, volunteers for CARE in Lebanon. She writes about her home country Syria and how she supports her fellow refugees every day
I had only minutes to leave my home in Syria. I took my house keys with me – just like my grandfather did back in 1948 when he had to flee from his home in Palestine. I remember asking myself: “Will I be like you grandpa? Will I never go back home like you never went back? Will I have to flee a second time? How hard will that be?”
It is hard waking up every day feeling homesick. You want to explain why you feel so tired and nostalgic, but find yourself speechless. How can you find words to explain what it feels like to have to leave your home? Will people understand if I say that I miss the faces of the people in my neighborhood; that I miss seeing them without sadness in their eyes; that I miss walking down the old streets and smelling jasmine?
I used to have breakfast in a place that was so quiet that the only thing you could hear was a water fountain, and the birds singing along with Fairouz. I also miss the evenings in Qasyoun Mountain overlooking Syria with its lit houses and the breeze that revitalizes the soul. I miss my neighbors, my relatives, my school, my friends and my books. But what I miss most is my university. The war forced me to leave my dreams, my life, and everything I love behind.
Two months ago I started volunteering with CARE International in Lebanon. I wanted to support my people, keep myself busy and take my mind off the war. The team spirit is very motivating. We conduct household assessments of Syrian refugee families in Mount Lebanon. We are trying to find out which families are the most vulnerable and need our support. The work with CARE has been intense and also very emotional, but I have learnt more than I could ever have imagined.
The war made me sleepy and I woke up as a refugee in Lebanon, realizing that my life had turned upside down. My house is not my home. My bed is not my own. All the plans have changed, and I do not know what to dream or hope for anymore. I feel like I lost a year or two of my life and still do not know when or how to restart. It hurts so much that I sometimes simply want to go back to Syria, even if I know that I will probably not survive my return.
At the same time I am meeting refugees every day I volunteer with CARE. They have so many different needs and show so much resilience to cope with their situation. I admire their strength. I see families who have lost their fathers, people who have lost their arms or legs, refugees living in run-down or unfinished buildings and simply do not know how to pay for their next meal. I realized that although I cannot go to university and have lost my home and friends, I should still be very lucky and thankful for everything I still have.
I still wonder if the streets and houses in Syria I dream of are still standing, if there is a smile that has not been erased and replaced by a tear. Are there any hearts left unbroken, or a child that has not been orphaned? I have learned that still having a little still means having a lot. My experience with CARE has made me proud to be a Palestinian-Syrian woman who is able to contribute to help my people when they need me. Syria, I love you and I will love you no matter how long it will take me to go back to you.