Tune in for the next three months for a focused look into what being refugees has been like for one Syrian refugee family. Five years ago, Adeen and his family gave up everything to seek safety as refugees in Lebanon. Now, they live in a refugee settlement and are trying hard to build new lives. This is their story.
Adeen worked hard in Syria to give his children a better future. Now, their lives are on hold as they struggle to survive in a refugee settlement in Lebanon. We provide care for his family in their settlement, but can't give his son the open heart surgery he needs.
A shepherd in Syria before the war, Adeen worked hard to provide for his family. Where he's from in Syria, it’s traditional to take children out of school at 10 years old to work. Teenage marriage is the norm for girls.
But Adeen wanted his children to have more choices. Even though he wasn't allowed to continue, he loved school as a child. He was adamant that his daughters continue schooling through university – one aiming to become a math teacher, another studying IT. He even supported his brother so that his nieces could afford to stay in school.
When the war came, Adeen’s first priority was to protect his daughters from sexual assault. Seventeen people from his neighborhood were abducted over a short period of time. No one knew by whom. Houses were burning and bombs were falling, Adeen says, and no one was safe. The conflict between warring factions in Syria was heating up, and Adeen knew he had to escape to protect his family. His family were some of the first refugees to arrive in Lebanon. However, this meant leaving their livelihoods and home behind.
We asked Adeen’s wife, Khawlah, how her life is now compared to before. “I had a comfortable life in Syria. We never had to ask for help from others, so we had our dignity intact. But now, each day is worse than the day before.”
Now in Lebanon, the family lives in a ramshackle settlement in the Bekaa Valley. Their focus has turned to survival, eking out a daily existence and staying healthy. They can no longer afford school and the children are now six years behind in their schooling. Instead of going to classes, they work in Lebanese farms for $4 a day.
Their farm earnings help cover their living expenses, but is not enough to pay for all the medicines for Adeen’s chronic illness or to pay for his son's urgently-needed open-heart surgery. Despite this, he's adamant that his daughters should not be forced into early marriage and is hopeful they will be able to finish their degrees one day. Adeen is thankful for the support his family has received. But, he knows much more must be done. “The needs are serious," he says.
As months have become years, the family's hope is slipping away. Recently, they made a plan to give all the money they’d saved to their second eldest son to venture on his own across Turkey and into Greece. From there, he’d work his way north to Scandinavia, where he could establish himself, finish his education, get a job and, when he’d earned enough, send for his family.
This ambitious plan is all the family has right now.