The Unknown Road

06 March 2014
The Unknown Road

“As if leaving our motherland was not enough, we also had to leave the countries where we found asylum, without knowing where we were going,” says Rania. Thirty-seven, Rania was displaced at the beginning of the conflict in Syria from Harasta, in rural Damascus, to Daria. Violence intensified in Daria and her family of five sought safety in al-Wafideen camp in Damascus, but even that was not spared bullets and snipers, and the family was forced to resort to Yarmouk camp - which has, since then, suffered months of siege and blockade. 

Rania’s family took the first opportunity to escape, moving to Lebanon in early 2013. They fled without luggage or clothes and settled with a relative in Shatila camp. They stayed for only a week before the crowded conditions led them to move to another refugee camp, Burj Barajneh. 

“We did not experience one displacement. We tried all kinds of displacement, external and internal. I’m still breathing, but my family and I witnessed all kinds of death and horror on the roads,” says Rania. 

In Burj Barajneh, a family hosted Rania and her children for a period of 6 months, until Rania was able to record their information with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The cash assistance they began receiving allowed them to rent a room and reside independently. 

Because Rania’s husband suffers from a health disorder, he is forced him to remain in the house and unable to support his family. Rania had worked as a hairdresser in Syria, sharing responsibility for the household with her husband, and she looked for work at salons in Lebanon. The unstable situation in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where Burj Barajneh is located, limited her movements inside the camp, however, and despite assistance from UNRWA, the high cost of living was making conditions very difficult for her. 

Eventually, a social worker knocked on her door and introduced her to the UNRWA Women's Programme Centre (WPC). Rania was encouraged to attend English language and computer courses at the centre. “I learn to help my children. English language is widely adopted in schools of Lebanon, unlike in Syria,|” According to Rania. In addition, she joined cooking classes that are organized in the centre in collaboration with the Souk el Tayeb Organization. “We are going back to our roots,” Rania says. “We are preparing Palestinian dishes to revive our heritage. I cannot describe the feeling when I prepare food here.”

Through her participation in cooking classes, Rania had the opportunity to participate in traditional food exhibitions where she sells her products for a small amount of money in order to meet the needs of her family. “I am still at the beginning of the road. I feel alive when people share the same fear and concerns and we all find relief through these activities,” says Rania.  “That’s the only place inside the camp where I can breathe. Even if I don’t make any profit, at least I’m benefiting my children and my husband. Maybe when I go back to Syria I will organize a luncheon to celebrate our return... and a greater one when we return to our homeland, Palestine.”


Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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