With deep sadness and despair, Amal tells us that she is a teacher of the Arabic language; she’s not used to begging and asking for help. But given her current circumstances, she is ready to work in any field, even cleaning houses so that she and her daughter can live in dignity.
That’s been a challenge ever since she fled the conflict in Syria in April 2013, seeking safety in the Palestine refugee camp of Beddawi in northern Lebanon. She’s had to move six times already, from living with her husband's relatives to moving in with a friend whose house was in the conflict zone between the Tripoli neighbourhoods of Jebel Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh. Afraid of the shelling and bombing, Amal and her 8-year-old daughter fled again. “We did not leave Syria to save our lives and come here and die without a reason”, Amal says, back in Beddawi.
The tone of her voice rises and tears glisten in her eyes as she describes her pain and suffering. “It seems as though torture and displacement from one house to another are our destiny. I have lost my so-called dignity”, she says.
Amal’s husband returned to Syria to provide for his family, but she says their condition in Lebanon is one of “agony, pain and suffering.” Housing and living expenses are high, and UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) rental subsidies and food assistance “are unfortunately not enough” to offset the costs. “We get US$ 100 in rental subsidies and US$ 30 per person in food assistance,” she explains. “These amounts helped us survive a whole month when we were in Syria before the conflict, but in Lebanon they are sadly not enough.”
In Beddawi, Amal and her daughter have settled with the seven members of a Syrian refugee family. They share a room that does not even meet the lowest standards. There is no roof to protect them from the rain, but sunlight does not come in. They lack covers and sheets, even furniture. Nonetheless, Amal declares that she “contributes in paying the rent, and my share is LBP 275,000 (US$ 180).”
Amal emphasizes that she still hangs on because of her daughter. The 8-year-old is enrolled in the UNRWA Al-Mazar school in Beddawi. After a moment of silence, Amal concludes, “We lost everything – our house and our money – but education is still available. It is the saviour of my daughter’s future and the most important thing in life.”