I Miss my Best Friend and my Playstation

I Miss my Best Friend and my Playstation

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Hani is eleven years old. For the past two weeks he has been working in a vegetable store in Mafraq.

A busy street in the city of Mafraq in the North of Jordan. Merchants pull their little wagons and hand barrows across the street. Cars are whirling sand and dust while finding their way through the market stalls. Mafraq is located around 19 miles from the Syrian border in the middle of the desert. In the past three years its population has doubled. More than 150,000 Syrians have sought shelter here. You have to look very closely to spot Hani behind the tomatoes, bananas, watermelons and peaches in big boxes on a long table. Hani is eleven years old and, for the first time in his life, has been working over the past two weeks. He starts at eight in the morning and finishes at eight at night. He drags cases from the back of the shop to refill the stalls. “In the beginning he could only lift a few pounds. Now he can handle around twenty,” explains his boss Omar. “In the beginning” – that was when Hani, his parents and his five sisters had just fled his hometown Homs. Hani is merely 5 feet tall and has arms and legs as thin as matches. “When he first started he was a lot skinnier. He was only a bunch of skin and bones,” Omar says.

Hani himself does not say a lot. He is sitting on a green box with holes and plucks styrofoam from a package. His big brown eyes are staring at the white flakes as they fall onto the ground. His father Hamid places his hand on his son’s head. “During the last three months in Homs we had nothing to eat. We collected leftovers from the street and searched the trash cans for food that was thrown away. The past two years were a nightmare,‘‘ says his father. First their house was looted and then someone set it on fire. But the family stayed. “I have worked hard to build our home. I thought life would get better. I did not want to leave. I wanted to stay, “Hamid says.

But then their house was destroyed by a bomb and the family had to flee. They walked for eleven days from Homs to the Jordanian border. They had to hide behind trees and were forced to watch as two of their uncles were kidnapped and their aunt raped and then shot.

While his father and his boss are talking, one of Hani’s adult colleagues starts loudly promoting his tomatoes. Hani shivers and his entire skinny body is shaking. “Hani cannot remember anything but the war. He urgently needs psychosocial assistance.” The last few years of his young life were full of bombs, shootings, fire and fear. Hani seems to free his body out of lockdown and disagrees with his father. He says that he also remembers his grandfather’s farm and how he played amongst his sheep and cows. His face lightens up for a couple of minutes and his father caresses his head. His father has tears in his eyes. “I do not know what I shall do. I am so ashamed that my child has to work. I cannot find work and am not allowed to legally work in Jordan. I am afraid to be sent back to Syria. For children, the legal consequences are not as harsh. So I hover over my son and try to help as much as I can.”

Hani likes his job but he is tired when he comes back home after twelve hours of work. His home in Jordan is a one-bedroom flat with mold on the walls, which he has to share with his five sisters and his parents. He spends the approximately two euros he earns daily on buying food for his family and contributing to paying the rent. Hani has only one dream. “I want to go back. I miss my best friends and my Playstation. I want to go back to school to become an engineer and rebuild Homs.”

by Johanna Mitscherlich, Regional Emergency Communications Coordinator

Keep learning:

Hani, 11, came to Mafraq a month ago. He fled Homs with his parents and five sisters after their house was bombed. They walked 11 days from Homs to the Jordanian border. To support his family he works in a vegetable store 12 hours every day. When Hani first arrived, he could hardly lift the vegetable boxes. He had been eating leftovers from the street in Homs for over three months, because there was no more food available. He likes the job but wants to go back to school to become an engineer. (Photo: CARE/Johanna Mitscherlich)