Passing on the knowledgeMayada is 13 years old and a Syrian refugee now living in Lebanon. Similar to the thousands of other children living in Lebanon, Mayada stopped going to school after fleeing her hometown, in Hama, Syria with much of her family. But now she has attended The Danish Refugee Council's awareness sessions and now she is the one teaching her friends.
On a hot summer day during the holy month of Ramadan, roads of Maghdouche, a small town of Southern Lebanon are almost empty. Mayada is waiting with her two younger sisters in front of their rented house to tell her story. She looks like any other 13-year-old, except that she had already spent more than a year of her life enduring the hardship of wartime. Her father, who now works as a daily worker could not afford the school fees for his four daughters and two sons.
“I was feeling very lonely during that period. I missed my friends left back in Syria, I missed my school and I had nothing to do,” Mayada said.
Weeks passed when one day, the family’s neighbor convinced Mayada’s mother to contact the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) who were conducting psychosocial support activities for children in the area. Mayada remembers the first day she joined the group of children.
“All my life changed suddenly. I felt special. The animators were there to listen to me and I could share my feelings and fears without any judgment,” Mayada said.
The activities and awareness sessions helped Mayada become more independent and self-confident. Mayada is proud to say that she was the one giving information on hygiene and puberty to her new friends at the end of the psychosocial support activity cycle. DRC was able to refer all 86 children who participated in this three month cycle to the closest Lebanese school which operates a double shift to allow more Syrian youngsters to continue their education.
As for Mayada’s dream, the young adolescent girl disclosed that she wants to return to Syria and become a professional football player.
“I would like to represent my country in international competitions, like the ones I used to see on TV. But don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret,” Mayada says.
Through funding made available by UNICEF, the Danish Refugee Council seeks to ensure the protection, dignity and wellbeing of women and children are at the center of its programming initiatives. Since January 2015, more than 3000 children like Mayada have attended psychosocial support activities in Northern Lebanon, South and the Bekaa.