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Life in the shelters for Syrian famililes

Have you ever felt homesick?

For Syrian families at Al Ibra and Al Rama shelters in Wadi Khaled, north Lebanon, this feeling never goes away.

The shelters are abandoned schools in which more than 35 families share toilets, kitchens, water and electricity (when available), and use a washing machine on rotation.

Each family has an average number of seven people and stays in a 4×4 m² classroom.

Children help with daily chores such as distributing bread and food, folding clothes, fetching water, and so on. With no space for them to play and have fun, and no regular access to school, children are losing their chance to enjoy their childhood.

Cold, damp and crowded

It was a cold and rainy day when I arrived at the Al Ibra shelter.

Children were playing in the streets while mothers watched from a small balcony and through broken windows.
Some men were sitting at the entrance of the shelter, drinking coffee and chatting. I greeted them and climbed the stairs.

There was a delicious smell coming from the kitchen on the first floor; where some of the women were cooking lunch. I learned later that they divide tasks among them on a daily basis: some cook while others clean.

Both floors were dark, cold and humid. The rooms were crowded with no carpets, heating or light at times. There were no doors, but only curtains to offer some kind of privacy. Clothes were hanging all along the corridors because this is the only space to dry them.

“I am so happy that I am going to remedial classes to learn French and study,” said 12-year-old Aya. “I used to spend my entire day in the shelter playing with friends or doing nothing.”

Missing home

It’s the same scenario in Al Rama shelter. “We are staying in one room where we eat, sleep and do everything. I am trying my best to keep it tidy,” explained Zahra.

The water leaks inside the rooms when it rains; there is no access to hot water or electricity; and each person only gets to shower once every week.

Children spend their time in the old playground, playing with whatever object they find. They often fight out of boredom and frustration.

Two girls filling water in Al Rama shelter in Wadi Khaled, north LebanonSome of the families I met thought their stay in the shelter was temporary. Months have passed, but they are still there.

“I miss my home so much,” ten-year-old Amar said sadly. “I remember it very well; it was a very big and nice house. Now my family and I are staying in one small room. I don’t feel happy.”

Mona, Communication and Advocacy officer, Save the Children in Lebanon

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