Tag Archive: Lebanon

Julia: The 14-year-old who works hard for change

Josephine Haddad, Communications Officer, World Vision Lebanon | 22 August 2017

It wasn’t odd for nine graders in Julia’s class to be speaking of engagements and weddings. Even two of her friends who aged only 14 years old were about to tie the knot. No matter how frequent these talks were among these young teenagers, Julia never stopped feeling like an outcast. She always thought that she was different, but she could never tell whether she was right or wrong – until she was introduced to World Vision (WV).

Julia is an active member in one of World Vision’s youth committees in Lebanon. With funds from Australia, many child-focused activities were being implemented by World Vision in several towns in the Akkar area – north Lebanon. Her uncle, who happens to be the town mayor, advised her to attend one of WV’s activities. “It was a session around violence against children,” she recalled. “I was absent-minded the entire way back home, after the event. I felt awful, because I sometimes hurt my younger brother, either by calling him names or hitting him.” Julia felt that she learned something valuable, and she felt the need to engage in more activities. Thus, she did and this is how Julia started her journey with World Vision, three years ago.

A series of questions passed through her mind: why are the instructors generous with the information they have? Why are they doing it for free? Mayada, a World Vision trainer, says that Julia stood out from the first time she attended a WV activity. “This girl is focused and a dreamer. She is exactly what we needed to start the change in this community,” stated Mayada. Julia understood the impact any good messenger could have on
his surroundings. “I learned from World Vision that if I share the information I have with one person only, I can make a difference.” Julia’s first step in sharing knowledge with her friends was after World Vision held a session around handwashing awareness. The following day, Julia took to school leaflets which show the different stages of handwashing and passed them to her classmates.

Nevertheless, the turning point for Julia was the day she was informed that their committee will be organizing a play, writing scripts, and performing in front of many attendees. “I told them I was open for suggestions in regards to the themes they choose, as long as they stick to the big title “Child Rights,” recalls Mayada. “I was surprised by how mature and smart these children are.” When it was time for Julia to pick a topic that is dear to her heart and child-related, she didn’t hesitate for a second before choosing Early Marriage. “I needed to raise my voice against something very common in my surrounding. I needed to tell the people around me that girls my age should study and play – not more.” Julia played the role of a young girl whose parents plan to marry her off to an
adult, and she was telling her secret to one of her friends. “I was overwhelmed with emotions. People were applauding before the scene ended,” she remembered. “My father still watches the play on video at least once a week; he is so proud of the messages I conveyed.”

Many activities left an impact in Julia’s heart after the play. One of them is her own suggestion– to paint on a big water tank, in the middle of the town, drawings about child rights. “I never felt as powerful as I do now because of World Vision. If I was able to spread awareness about several issues within these three years, imagine what all of us can do in one lifetime,” Julia stated.

The thought of World Vision ending its projects in Julia’s hometown saddens her; however, she is not worried. “World Vision gave me a treasure in these years. Teaching us about our rights is a life-long weapon,” said Julia who vowed to maintain this continuous work; even when she grows up and studies medicine. Her ultimate goal is to build a new hospital for her town, where all the people can receive treatment for free. “I dream of this because World Vision taught me to give a hand to the poor – especially the children,” said Julia who knows now that the speech of a 14-year-old should be full of powerful dreams and hopes for a better future.

Support children like Julia, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

A day I will never forget

By Mona Daoud
Communications Officer
World Vision Lebanon

Saturday, July 25, 2015 is a day I will never forget. My family decided on a big gathering in a village in Northern Lebanon; a place we visit every summer. I told them that it might be difficult for me to join. They insisted on my presence. It turned out that they were preparing a small surprise to celebrate my birthday. I promised to join them at night as I had to work in the Bekaa Valley that morning.

In my line of work at World Vision, I interview Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Often, they tell me that they have no choice but to send their children to work, because they do not have enough food to eat. When I tried to get more details about the children’s circumstances, the families answered “Come and see for yourself”.

On July 25, at 10 A.M, I went to see the situation first hand. On my way there, I saw open-top trucks going back and forth, packed full of Syrian refugee children and adults standing with limbs hanging out the side of the truck.

Thank God I had another colleague who was able to lead the way and find the agricultural land where the children work, as it was located in a very isolated area. I started to feel scared.There were no road signs, no buildings, no houses. Only landmine warnings.

Our car stopped. My heart stopped.

Stepping out of the car on to the agricultural land where the children and mothers work took me back two years to when I tried to watch the film ‘12 Years a Slave.’ My attempt to watch it failed as I am a very sensitive person when it comes to witnessing extreme violations of human rights, especially when it comes to physical torture. I only managed to watch 15 minutes before I left the cinema, leaving my friends and husband inside.

I did not expect that two years later I would have to watch the same movie again, but in real life. This time, I could not walk away.

I walked robotically towards the land owner who was holding a stick hitting Syrian refugee children in the field.  I said “Good Morning, I am Mona from World Vision”. He replied “Welcome”. He ran to an 8-year old child wearing yellow; hit him with the stick on his back, once, twice, until he fell to the ground. Then, he approached the child and pulled him roughly by his ear until it turned as red as a tomato.  The child in yellow shouted “Mom”. He kneeled on the floor and cried, once, twice, until his mother came to him and said “Ibrahim honey, do not cry”. She spoke quietly. She could not even hug him. She is not allowed to leave work for more than 30 seconds; otherwise her child will be hit on the back.

Ibrahim_Mona
Ibrahim (in yellow), an 8-year old Syrian refugee, has to work for long hours in
a field in Lebanon, earning $6 (RM25.50) a day.
His family has no other choice to survive.

During those few minutes, while Ibrahim was crying, the land owner shared something with me. “You know, madame, dealing with sheep is much easier than dealing with these Syrian refugee children”. My ears were with this man. My eyes were on Ibrahim. My heart was nowhere. It was broken.

I needed my mind to stay alert so I could record all of the details that will help me tell the world about this violation of children’s rights. “Madame, why are you worried? This stick does not hurt. It only makes the child afraid so they work and produce more.”

Ibrahim_Mona2
Thank God, it was time for the only 15-minute break of the whole day for the children and mothers working in the field. I used the opportunity to run to Ibrahim. Ibrahim was smiling. Like any innocent child I guess, Ibrahim could easily engage in happy moments. But, God only knows how he feels when he lays down to sleep at night.

Ibrahim’s face seemed okay, but his body didn’t. His backbones were visible and his back was hunched. His eyes looked down as though he’d committed a sin. I asked him to raise his head and know that he is a hero. His eyes fluttered. I asked him how he feels. He was too shy to speak. I managed to hold my tears and get my voice out. I told him: “Be sure that God will not leave you”.

I could say no more. I waved goodbye and left. I went to meet my family as I’d promised to do. I decided to keep my feelings on hold until Monday. But, even that failed.

When I arrived and saw my nephews, I experienced a very new and weird feeling. I hugged Mohamad, my 5-yeard old nephew, seeing Ibrahim in front of me. I hugged him for a long time. I turned to see Fouad, my 4-year old nephew running and laughing around the pool. I imagined Ibrahim playing instead of working in the field at the mercy of the stick. I ran to my room, put my face on the pillow, and could not stop crying.

Almost two months have passed since that day. The memory of my 27th birthday celebration has faded but the images of those children working in the field and being beaten by a stick are seared in my memory forever. Now I understand why so many families are risking their lives to flee to Europe.

Today, on 21 September, the International Day of Peace, I am calling on the world to help children like Ibrahim. I see him every time I look at my nephews. I imagine him saying: “My body cannot tolerate the stick anymore”. Peace is not only about ending the war. It is rooted in treating refugee children with dignity and humanity.

There are currently over 4 million Syrian refugees in countries including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, around half of those are children. World Vision has reached approximately 2 million refugees, internally displaced people and vulnerable host community members with assistance including food, water, sanitation, health, child-friendly spaces and remedial education. In response to the needs of Syrian refugees in Europe, World Vision has started distributing baby kits and items for Syrian refugee mothers and their families currently living in camps in northern Serbia. Visit https://www.worldvision.com.my/syria-crisis to find out more.

Clean water and latrines make life livable for Syrian refugee families in Lebanon

by Sandy Maroun
World Vision Lebanon

The path to Aisha’s tent is filled with lots of mud and small rocks. The uneven ground is littered with old unused stuff, like chairs and broken appliances. Between tents, round white structured latrines and water tanks can be seen.

“Two months ago, we did not have all this,” says Aisha, 34-year-old Syrian refugee woman. “[The] children used to pee outside the tent, in a hole in the ground, and get their bodies dirty. Today, we have a latrine installed by World Vision and actually it is great,” she adds.

As part of the Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project in the Bekaa valley, funded by the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), World Vision installed latrines around Syrian refugee tents as part of informal tented settlements.

Ibrahim
Ibrahim (Aisha’s 5-year old son) happily opening the latrine’s door installed by World Vision in
Bekaa Valley

When the minimum standards for humanitarian assistance were set in 1997, it was established that there should be at least one toilet installed for every 25 persons. Yet, to have a better impact on Syrian refugees, World Vision installed one latrine for every 15 people. The organization also installed water tanks around the settlement allowing Syrian refugees to access clean portable water (the 1,000 litre tanks are filled by World Vision every 10 days) and greywater (filled as needed).

“We have everything we need [in terms of water and hygiene] now. It is definitely much better than before,” says Khalluf, Aisha’s 16-year-old son. “Water is reaching our tent through hoses [now]. Before World Vision, we used to fill water in buckets to get washed or clean our tents or throw it in the hole that contains our sewage,” he adds.

The potable water World Vision uses to fill the tanks is tested in specialized laboratories to make sure it has a healthy composition. As a secondary precaution, however, World Vision also distributed two water filters for each household.

“World Vision’s duty is to ensure the right environment for Syrian refugees, even though they live in tented settlements. These tents are the refugees’ homes now and through the WASH project we wanted to make it [as] comfortable [as possible],” says Simon Tawk, World Vision’s WASH project manager.

As part of the WASH project, World Vision dug a big hole in the ground, and installed a 200 litre hidden septic tank, connected to the latrines, to contain the sewage water. These tanks are emptied by specialized trucks monthly. The refugees pay the truck drivers to empty the septic tanks with vouchers distributed by World Vision.

“[The] WASH project provides Syrian refugees with the indispensable components of their lives, such as potable water to drink and prepare food, and greywater for toilets and showering,” says Simon, who also points out that by these efforts, “World Vision seeks to alleviate their suffering.”

Khalluf lives in the tent with his mother, Aisha, his father, Abdel Wahab, and his seven siblings. He’s the eldest child. Eight months ago, the family fled the war in Aleppo and found refuge in the Bekaa, where other relatives resorted before them.

“We can flush the toilet and we are doing well, much better than before. There is nothing like home, but our situation is better now,” says Khalluf.

World Vision raises refugees’ awareness on the importance of proper hygiene through information sessions given by health promoters in settlements, as part of the WASH project.

“We seek to help Syrian refugees adapt to their new lives and situations by raising their awareness on health and hygiene habits inside camps,” says Simon. “We know that they had great habits back home, but living in a tented settlement is different and our duty is to help them adapt.”

The WASH project in Zahle area in Bekaa reached 1,000 Syrian households thanks to World Vision and ECHO. So far, World Vision’s WASH project in Lebanon has benefited 24,500 Syrian refugees.

Please help meet the urgent needs of the Syrian refugees such as Aisha, Khalluf and Ibrahim today. To make a donation, go to www.worldvision.com.my > Donate Now > key in “Syria Crisis Response” at to rush emergency aid to. Thank you.