Syria's Refugees: Ahmad never had a hobby before
Ahmad added a happy face to a flower he drew. The eyes he sketched were looking at the top right corner of the paper, where the big yellow sun was. The flower looked extremely happy after Ahmad finished drawing its big smile.
When his teacher asked him about the exaggerated smile, “it’s a new day” was his answer. One would wonder where 13-year-old Ahmad, a Syrian refugee, got his optimism and joy from.
Images of streets in ruins, broken trees, and destroyed houses were engraved in Ahmad’s mind throughout his first two years in Lebanon. He was the eldest of three brothers, and remembered the fighting the most. He also recalled how worried and sad he was the day his parents decided it was time to leave Syria in 2013. He did not want to leave home. “I had a daily thought, every morning, that this day would be our last day alive. I was always scared of my parents or brothers dying, but going the distance to Lebanon frightened me as well,” Ahmad remembering of his last days in Syria.
In Lebanon, Ahmad’s mother understood that what her son has seen and been through, was traumatising for a 10-year-old. She knew Ahmed was distressed, even if he didn’t talk about it much about it and sought to find something to make him feel better. “I had nothing to do here, no friends to talk to, nowhere to go, and I missed home”, Ahmad admitted. “My mother sensed what I was feeling, and I worried her the most”.
In 2015, his mother learned of World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces. The spaces provide children aged three to six with Early Child Education and provided young refugees aged six to twelve, like Ahmad, with psycho-social support. The activities have been conducted in four community centers in Beqaa, Lebanon where these kids can learn, play, sing and spend valuable time with children of their own age.
Ahmad’s mother enrolled all three children in hopes they, especially Ahmad, would get the support they need. Ahmad attended the programme for one year, before he turned twelve. “People here tried to help us forget the brutality of the war, and they succeeded,” said Ahmad. He happily recalled how thrilled he was to participate in the drawing competitions that allowed the winner to hang their drawings on the wall. It took Ahmad one month at the Child Friendly Space to realise drawing and painting were his favorite activities. He enjoyed all the games and songs, but drawing became very dear to his heart. “In my first couple of days at the Child Friendly Space, I took part in the art activities so I could take them home and show my mother what I was up to during the day,” he said.
Ahmad knew his mother was doing her best to save her children’s childhood and make it peaceful again. He knew any progress from his side would make her and his father less worried and happy again. “Thanks to the Child Friendly Space, drawing is my hobby, and I never had a hobby before”, he admitted. Even after finishing his year at the Child Friendly Space, Ahmad still works on his drawing skills by practicing daily. “It still takes my mind off the big things; like where will we be in a couple of years? Do we still have a house in Syria to go back to? Drawing helps me stop thinking,” he admitted.
“Ahmad is very talented, we used to show his drawings around and take pride in them,” said Khouzama, a teacher at the Child Friendly Space, who described Ahmad as a fast learner and an extremely disciplined student. “He still visits the centre from time to time, offers his help to younger children and draws funny faces to help cheer up the ones who are sad,” she continued. “He has a promising future.”
“I am much more confident now than before, because I know I’m good at something,” said Ahmad. The Child Friendly Space gave him an opportunity to learn new skills and games, make new friends in Lebanon and start excelling academically. Ahmad’s childhood was saved by the love of art, a couple of games, and a caring environment. Those colorful walls and friendly environment have become the safe haven for many more refugee children who are more optimistic and joyful, just like Ahmad.
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