City: Beirut

World Refugee Day: Faaiza’s Story

Faaiza is eight years old. Her father holds her close, explains the plan one last time and then tearfully leaves her behind. She watches her parents and siblings make their way through the chaos of the Syrian border into Lebanon. Trucks rumble past and the crowd presses around her, blocking her view. And suddenly, Faaiza’s family is gone — and she is alone.

“My papers were not in order, so they let everyone in my family through except for me,” Faaiza recalls. “I was stuck on the other side of the Syrian border.” This is the life of a refugee. Faaiza’s neighborhood near Aleppo exploded into violence four days before. Having no time to prepare, they fled with all their hands could carry. Their only comfort was the fact they were alive and together — at least until they reached the border.

Stepping out of the view of the guards, Faaiza reaches down and pulls up a handful of dirt from her homeland — Syria. She rubs it on her face and hands, smearing it with the sweat from her long journey. Faaiza tears her clothes and completes the disguise. In just a few moments, she has reduced herself from the daughter of a middle class Syrian plumber to a beggar. With her hands outstretched and her eyes on the barbed wire fence — the only thing separating her from her family — she slips past the guards, crossing into Lebanon by herself. “God helped me find my family,” she says. “He didn’t leave me by myself.”

Convoy of Hope’s team met Faaiza a few years ago as we handed her a small space heater to protect her family from freezing temperatures. Her warm smile cut through the cold wind blowing about the dilapidated Beirut neighborhood where her family lives. For the last few years, Faaiza and her family have been scraping together the pieces of their lives. But, they now have hope for a brighter future. As our team says goodbye to Faaiza, the girl who navigated the border by herself, she turns to her mother and holds out the small space heater. She wants to offer it to another family in their neighborhood whose house isn’t as warm as theirs. Despite all she’s been through, Faaiza’s kindness has never waned.

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Advocacy / Field Story / News

Replace Fear with Kindness on World Refugee Day

A few short weeks ago, I visited the home of a single mother to three boys. She sat quietly next to me and we tried to nonverbally communicate through a series of smiles, nervous laughter and gestures. She reminded me of other mothers; strong, caring and loving. The difference between this mother and other mothers I know is that she led her children out of Syria to safety in Lebanon after her husband was killed. Her children have witnessed war, death and destruction, but life must go on for this family. With no home to call their own; they are stateless.

They are refugees.

My new friend and her family join 65.3 million other individuals who have been displaced from their homes due to war, conflict or climate change. Nearly 1 in every 100 persons around the world are displaced from their homes and, on average, people remain displaced from their homes for 17 years. For my friend, this means she must plan a new future for her children: one that will occur outside the comfort of her own home.

Today, and everyday, we celebrate my new friend and the millions of other refugees around the world who are learning new languages, navigating differences in cultures and dreaming new futures for their children. We lift up their courage and strength, and trade fear for kindness.

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