Dispatches from the field: New hope every day – Dala’s story

12 August 2020
Dala at a workshop for the UNRWA Agency-wide Student Parliament. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Qais Ghutasheh

I was born in 2004 in Nahr al-Bared camp, one of the largest Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon.

I love to read. In books I find a wholesome  and safe world to escape to. I also love public speaking. I hope that one day I can present a speech that captures what it is like to be a Palestine refugee; to represent my people and send their message to the world with honesty and sincerity. Finally, I would love to become a lawyer - to defend people’s rights, stand up for the oppressed and send oppressors to justice. However, in Lebanon, as a Palestine refugee, I cannot be a lawyer. I am simply denied this dream.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed my whole life beyond recognition. I no longer wake up and carry my bag to the bus that will take me to school. Fridays and Sundays are no longer vacation days. Instead, all the days of the week are beginning to resemble each other. I’m a member of the UNRWA Student Parliament, but I can no longer meet with other students. We complete all of our work over the phone. We will not stop our efforts until our hope in life has been restored and until we have completed the plans that we set.

Nahr al-Bared Palestine refugee camp, Lebanon. ©  Creative Commons photo by pattiane
Nahr al-Bared Palestine refugee camp, Lebanon. © Creative Commons photo by pattiane

This pandemic has made the whole world anxious. We are all afraid of contracting the virus. We worry about our future. Many of us have worried about whether we would be able to return to school to continue our education. We wondered, would there be work for everyone who had lost their jobs?

I thank God every day that my dad didn’t lose his job this year. Many of our family and friends here in the camp have been hit hard by the pandemic. Before any of this, we were already dealing with a major economic crisis in Lebanon. The price of commodities changes every hour, increasing as the Lebanese Lira falls. However, even when the value of the Lira increases, prices seem to stay the same. We’re all asking ourselves: how are we supposed to live?

I’m very worried for some of my classmates. Many of us were able to continue learning, electronically using mobile phones. What about everyone who doesn’t have access to mobile phones? What about electricity? The electricity in Lebanon now cuts out for hours on end every day. How can we manage our time? With this much uncertainty, how can we not worry?

This fall, UNRWA will open the doors of its schools to more than 36,000 Palestine refugee students in Lebanon. Many of us have already completed catch up sessions to make up for the material missed during COVID-19. I’m so looking forward to seeing my classmates again.

Dala presents to her peers at a meeting of the UNRWA Agency-wide Student Parliament. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Heba Al-Akasheh
Dala presents to her peers at a meeting of the UNRWA Agency-wide Student Parliament. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Heba Al-Akasheh

As a Palestine refugee, I know how to work hard. Today, I am the Vice President of the UNRWA Agency-wide Student Parliament. When we developed our ambitious plan for the year, we never expected everything that would happen in 2020. Here we are today, striving to complete our plan via social media and electronic communication platforms. It’s so important to us that we achieve what we set out to and leave a positive example for all future Parliamentarians.

We want to let the world know that no matter what happens and whatever difficulties we face, we will not give up. We will work, accomplish our goals and be distinguished always. For us children, we wake up every day with new hope and optimism that tomorrow will always be a better and brighter day.