Helping Hands Become Part of Nour’s Story in Lebanon
Vocational youth rehabilitate homes like Nour’s in the Bekaa
Nour has lived a long and eventful life, full of difficulties. “I am 70 or 80 years old. I don’t actually know, I lost track. It doesn’t matter,” Nour says with a broad smile. Her struggles have been defined by absence — of a society without a social safety net or essential services for those who need it the most.
Nour is from the Qamishli area in northeastern Syria. She married at an early age and moved with her husband to Lebanon almost 50 years ago. When they arrived to Beirut, they stayed at Tal Al Zaatar Palestinian Refugee Camp (which no longer exists). It was an affordable location for the couple as they tried to build a family, and a life.
They lived in relative comfort for a few years. Nour gave birth to four girls and one boy. They owned a small house, they had food on the table and heat during the winter. Then her life took a sharp turn for the worse.
In 1975 the Lebanese civil war started. Palestinian and Lebanese armed groups clashed. In 1967, the infamous Tal Al Zaatar massacre took place and more than 3,000 civilians were killed, and thousands more were displaced. Again.
Nour and her family moved out of Beirut and found refuge in the Bekaa Valley. Tragically, a few years later Nour’s husband suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away. After her husband died, the family really struggled to make ends meet. She was left with five children in a country that was not her own, away from family and friends. Nour worked odd jobs when she could find them.
Like many young Syrian men in Lebanon, Nour’s son joined the 2012 migration wave to Europe, traveling via boat to Germany. Nour had hoped that her son would find work and send her and her daughters money. Unfortunately, she says he instead turned his back on his family.
Our Bekaa team visited her house while conducting a needs assessment in the area. Nour’s house is literally falling apart. The roof is falling down, and the plumbing system is barely functional.
She showed the team around her tiny house.
“Our roof is useless, it rains on us inside our home just like it rains outside. I put a sheet of nylon over my blanket to protect myself in bed.”
Nour lives in this house with two of her daughters, Fatima and Shireen. Shireen has a physical disability and requires special care.
Her eldest daughter is in Beirut looking for work but rarely finding any. “Employers tell her that she is Syrian and expects to find a job? Why shouldn't they give the job to a Lebanese woman?”
Nour and her family fear the coming cold of winter in the Bekaa region. They depend on the kindness of strangers and organizations such as Anera for any support they can get.
“Every day I wake up afraid. Every day I worry whether we will earn any money. How will we afford to buy fuel to keep us warm?”
Anera’s team prioritized fixing Nour’s house. Our home rehabilitation team consists of experts and students of Anera’s vocational welding and plumbing courses at Bawarshi company, one of Anera’s local partners. The team installed a large water tank and a heater, and renovated Nour’s plumbing system so that the family will have warm water during the winter. Nour’s family is now on Anera’s list of families needing further aid and they will be receiving food parcels through our youth-led initiatives in the Bekaa.
Mohammad, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee and one of the students who renovated Nour’s home, said he felt proud knowing that he is supporting a Syrian widow who, like him, is forced to live abroad.
“I almost cried when I went into her home, but I didn’t. I was glad to be part of this team and that I am now part of her story.”
This initiative is part of the Youth Empowerment, Education and Employability Program, a partnership between Anera and UNICEF Lebanon.