Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
‘I’ve been in Lebanon since January 2013. It was snowing at the time. There were too many problems in Syria, continuous shelling being one of them. Our children were watching this. They were terrified about being hit by a shell that could kill them so we decided to come to Lebanon until the situation calms down, then we can go back.’
Farouk Abdallah shares a similar story with over an estimated million other Syrian refugees currently living in Lebanon. Many, like Farouk, have fled conflict and violence in search of safety and shelter but have arrived in Syria’s smallest neighbouring nation with nowhere to go, few possessions and are struggling to survive in the harsh winter conditions.
‘It was a hard journey here’ continued Farouk sitting in his ShelterBox tent with his four young boys, who are marked with dust and dirt wearing clothes too small for them. They are in an isolated area of the Bekaa Valley amongst one of the small tented settlements that now have become part of Lebanon’s landscape.
‘The children were left on their own’
‘I came with my wife, children and the few possessions we had on a bus. However my wife was refused to cross the border. She had all of our identification documents but they wouldn’t let her pass. I therefore had to leave her there, travel with the children to drop them here, then return to pick her up. We then had to travel back to our hometown in Syria to prepare other identification documents. We then returned to the border where the guards let us cross. It took a week; the children were left on their own here. When we returned we tried living with relatives but the room couldn’t accommodate all of us.’
Farouk and his family were given a ShelterBox tent after speaking to one of the international disaster relief charity’s implementing partners in the Bekaa Valley.
‘It’s good to protect us against the rain’
‘As soon as I said we had been sleeping in the rain they bought it to us immediately and set it up with mattresses and blankets. It’s good to protect us against the rain and it’s warm.’
Farouk has built other makeshift rooms onto the disaster relief tent providing more space for the family and a separate area for the children to sleep in.
‘I’m going to build on it even more with other covers as the winter is hard here.’
Farouk has done all that he can to make their tent as homely as possible. Trinkets are displayed, rugs are laid down and he even has a television.
His children all share expressions of sadness. They do not go to school. Farouk and his wife both do agricultural work when it’s available for a small wage, mainly planting potatoes, like many other Syrian refugees in the area. But Farouk also shares something else with many other Syrian refugees – hope.
‘I miss my home’
‘I’m not afraid of anything, why should I worry? I have my wife and children… relaxed and waiting… for the situation to calm down for us to return to Syria… If it calm’s down we won’t sleep here, I miss my home… My hope lies with my children’s future.’
As reports state the refugees now outnumber the Lebanese residents in some villages, particularly near the border, ShelterBox aid has been released through customs in Beirut. Through its local implementing partner network, ShelterBox is able to continue to help the growing Syrian refugee population throughout Lebanon by bringing them shelter and other vital aid to help keep them warm this winter.
It’s also thanks to you that refugee families, like Farouk, can be safe and together under one roof as they wait to return to their hometowns in Syria.
You can still help by donating here.