The informal camp in Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley was set up in 2011, a few months after the Syrian war erupted next door.
It is now home to more than 110 families. Last winter several deaths were reported after roofs collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. There was a shortage of winter items, like clothes and blankets. This year, this camp, along with other refugee settlements in the Bekaa valley, have been included in Anera’s newly expanded winterization programs that reach out to the valley to support the refugees.
On a recent cloudy morning, camp residents waited for the distribution of a shipment of 5,400 quilts, 800 school kits and some 3,000 hygiene kits. The generous donation from Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is helping refugee families cope with the coming winter cold.
Life Changes Drastically for a Young Syrian Girl
Waiting along with her grandmother is seven-year-old Zainab Hisso from Aleppo, Syria. “My parents decided to bring us to Lebanon one by one to keep us safe,” she explains. “I got here first with my grandmother but my mother and father got hit by a missile on their way back to Aleppo to bring my brother.”
Now the young Syrian refugee lives alone with her grandmother in the camp. Her 10-year-old brother remains in Aleppo at his aunt’s house. Zainab says she and her grandmother take care of each other because they have no other family outside Syria.
After picking up her parcel, Zainab leads her grandmother to their tent where she invites her young friends to join them for tea. “This is Ismail and Aya, my best friends,” she says as she introduces them. “We go to school together, play and eat together, we are inseparable.”
Zainab explains her daily routine. “Next to the camp there is a school for children like me where we have English, Arabic and math classes.” That’s where Zainab was introduced to school lessons, pencils, books and notepaper to draw. She smiles and hugs her school kit.
“If I were to rule the world, I would send parents to work and children to school,” Zainab declares. “This is how the world should be: We should only have to worry about school and pencils.” She adds, “One day I will become a teacher, a math teacher or science – okay, a teacher in general regardless of the subject.”
Losing Sight of Dreams as Winter Approaches
That’s just one of Zainab’s many wishes: She also wants buy a new pair of shoes because her sandals are too tight for her feet. And, Zainab says, she wants to return home to Aleppo. “I remember our big house. We had a big kitchen and my room was big and filled with dolls and we had a large garden where we used to play. Life was beautiful there,” says Zainab. Then she frowns, “Do you think my house has been destroyed?”
The UN reports more than 1.1 million Syrians are registered as refugees in Lebanon. Living conditions are overcrowded and dismal, with few educational opportunities and no space for children to play. For thousands of young Syrian refugee children like Zainab, dreams of a wonderful life back home are fading as the cold harsh conditions of their new reality takes hold.