A Syrian Refugee Story: When Life Takes a Turn


"Life does not always turn out the way we have planned it. A few years back I could have never imagined that my 14 year old son would be working to provide for us instead of going to school," says Sanaa, a mother of four, living in the village of Ayrouniyeh in North Lebanon.

Sanaa and her neighbors are attending one of CARE's hygiene promotion sessions. These sessions raise awareness about good hygiene practices. Their children are eagerly gathered around them. They listen and tease each other while they talk to Mariam, CARE's hygiene and distribution officer. CARE started working in North Lebanon governorate in the winter 2013 providing assistance to vulnerable Syrian refugees to cover their most urgent needs. CARE has repaired the sink, the water heater and its installation in Sanaa’s house, creating a safer and healthier household. "Since the repairs, my family and I are able to shower, cook and clean without having to fear electric shocks. The water used to leak on the electric cables before." 

Sanaa and her family were forced to leave Syria two years ago after clashes intensified in their neighborhood. Once their house and furniture were destroyed they decided to leave before anything  might happen to them as well. Sanaa explains that their decision to flee separated her from her parents who fled to Turkey. She has barely had any contact with them since then. "The journey to Lebanon was very difficult and we were exploited on the way. Midway through our bus ride the driver demanded more money which we could not afford. He took the few belongings we had left as a payment."

Their life in Lebanon is drastically different compared to the life they had in their homeland. "In Syria everything was really simple and easy. We had access to water, electricity, medical treatment and public transportation. Everything was easy and cheap and we never had to worry about safety and security. In Lebanon, every day is a new struggle. My husband is now a manual worker, taking any job he can find earning at best  around 100 US Dollars per week. But he hardly ever finds work for a full week. Our monthly rent is 150 US Dollars and we have to borrow money to pay for our food and medication. . Thus, we always have debts, but try our best to pay the rent on time as our first priority is to have shelter. However, our home here lacks proper walls, doors and windows. The winter is approaching and I fear how the harsh weather will affect us and especially the children’s health."

Sanaa's son is forced to work as a concierge in a building earning around 270 US Dollars per month to help provide for his family. However, he can only afford to give them 70 US Dollars of his income. He works far away from home and has to live on his own. "I only see him every ten days which makes me sad and I worry all the time. This is not the future I wished for any of my children. It crushes my heart knowing he has to work all day instead of going to school where he should be like his siblings," says Sanaa, while looking away trying to hold back her tears. Her daughters go to a school nearby. Their school costs  are fortunately covered by the UN for now. "School is the best option for them in this situation. They should get an education and gain more knowledge on how to live this life. My children can secure their future if they get an education so that they hopefully will never end up living like this when they grow up. I hope that nobody will ever have to go through the path we are on today - leaving their homeland and becoming refugees in a foreign country. Being far from home forces you to do things to survive which you could have never imagined. I wish that the war would end so that we can go back to Syria, our home."

Written by Racha El Daoi, Communications and Information Management Senior Assistant