I have been speaking with a lot of refugees, and their stories are all sadly similar. They stayed in Syria for as long as they could until they felt it was no longer safe enough for them there. After crossing the Lebanese border, they made their way to areas in Lebanon where their friends or relatives live. They now find themselves trying to eek out an existence in a foreign country where jobs are scarce, the cost of living is high, and where the locals, more often than not, use their depravity against them, to squeeze them for as much money as possible. The hell of constant fear for their lives has turned to a different kind of hell, one of constant worry over having enough money to maintain a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. And unfortunately, there is no end in sight.

This past week I spoke with Aziza. She cries everyday. After her first husband passed away, she raised her daughter alone for many years until she married a distant cousin this past year. Her parents and brother are still living back home in Aleppo. Her brother hasn’t stepped a foot outside in months, for if he does, the odds are he will be caught and drafted into the Syrian army since he is now of age. And you must understand, being drafted into the Syrian army is equivalent to a death sentence, especially for an uneducated conscript who will be on the front lines of such a brutal war. Aziza is angry with her new husband because he won’t let her brave the dangerous roads back to Syria to visit her parents, who she hasn’t seen in eight months. I tell Aziza her husband is right, she shouldn’t go back to Syria, she could die. Aziza laughs and tells me it doesn’t matter, she is already dead.

Ahmad is a man who lived a prosperous life in a small village in Syria near the Lebanese border. Unfortunately for Ahmad, his village was of strategic value for the Syrian army due to its proximity to Homs, and he was forced out of the village along with the majority of the other town residents. Where his children once played and where he once grew crops now sit soldiers of the Syrian army, using his town and his land as a base of operations to launch mortars into Homs. After abandoning his large home it was first burglarized, his furniture was stolen, their clothing, then the doors, windows and locks. His house was then burned to the ground. I tell him I’m sorry, and he tells me it’s ok. Thanks to God, they are still alive.

Ahmad now lives in an apartment in the mountains outside of Beirut with his wife, children and 16 other family members. He recently lost his janitorial job but is too ashamed to tell his mother, one of the 16 for whom he is now responsible. The apartment has been infested with bugs that he can’t get rid of, he shows me the bites on his own body as well as those of his children. His children play with their cousins in the apartment or on the apartment balcony, Ahmad is afraid to let them out to play on the streets for fears of losing one of them. His children, just like the rest of the Syrian children in this Lebanese town, haven’t been to school in nearly two years, and Ahmad worries they have forgotten everything they once learned.

As part of my efforts to open a school in the town where Aziza and Ahmad live, I am currently filming a documentary about their lives and stories. I am hopeful this documentary will inspire people to donate money towards this cause. Please continue to check back on this blog for future updates, including information about the forthcoming documentary, and how you can donate when I get the funding mechanism in place. And please continue to share this blog with people you know, and ‘like’ the Learning Hope in Lebanon Facebook page I created. It does more good than you could possibly imagine.