The biggest problem for a Syrian child in Lebanon is, no doubt, education.” Most Syrian refugee children have been out of school for one to two years. The lingering conflict in the home country is jeopardizing a whole generation of children. According to UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Maria Calivis, “fewer than 25 per cent of Syrian children are enrolled in public education from the total number of 400,000 displaced Syrian children,
Maybe this is one of the most important reasons which have pushed me to involve myself on this process, since the human is congenital to the place where he is born.Syria, where I deemed my eternal passion for its soil .where my being was composed and my soul had emerged, my passion to this holy land pushed me to be part of any efforts to make the peace and winds of change soar over my lovely country again.
I had left Syria more than 18 months ago to set up my new life and my new work, but something stopped me when I first arrived to Lebanon, I was wandering in Tripoli streets. I was shocked when I have seen a lot of children were either begging or working, instead of joining the schools.
The Syrians were everywhere, they fled their home country seeking peace and secure, unknowing which destiny is waiting them and their children, a lot of bitter facts, I faced in Lebanon, made me made my decision and be where I am now .and share every DISPLACED AND ORPHAN CHILD their agony and homelessness,
After, I had my own good experience in working with education field in Syrian for many years. I followed one of the local NGOs in Lebanon to start my work as a teacher, in a very short time, I was assigned as a school principle for one of seven schools for the NGO I am working for,
through working on this year I recognized, what do our children need, and how are they were treated, I got a good experience plus to my previous experiences in management domain,
However, this year was so different where the number of displaced people was increasing dramatically .On the other hand, the fundraisers and the organizations started to be exhausted from the Syrian crises length.
It was the beginning of the school year when many of the Syrians refugees in Diar Ammar, North of Tripoli in Lebanon, started either to call me or visit my house to be assured about the school for this year.
I didn't have the accurate answer since my answer was depending on the NGO I am following. after passing more than one month of the school starting, the people were still dramatically increasing their visit and their calls to me for a time my house turned into a school where my last year students were coming by groups to me to be assured about their school starting , them and their parents ,
finally after more than one month , I had a call from the NGO boss to attend a meeting for their schools , I was shocked when I was informed that this year will be on the expense of the Syrian parents where every child will cost his family about 330$ in addition to the high cost of transportation fees . For a while I thought about the children I've seen them first I arrived to Tripoli ,the orphans and the lost parents children and all of Syrian war children who don't have their daily food expense to pay such a huge amounts , especially most of the Syrian families members are more than three to four children,.
There are no funds for this year for our organization, "they claimed" well. I am apologizing; I can't complete my work with you on these hard conditions for our people. I declined my position and I went back home , my nieces and nephews were waiting my coming back to tell them to prepare themselves to school ; It was a shock!! When I have seen in their faces the sadness and frustration while I was telling them there is no school for this year.
"I am sorry kids I couldn't help you"
The people who met me in the street and who come to my home, my last year children were waiting the good news. Alas! in vain
The people trust me and the children like me. I have promised everyone who met me to help them.
I had to find a solution,
On the same time a lot of local NGOs were so active to enroll the Syrian students and ask their family for payment.- our children became a lucrative, commercial commodity - for those who are seeking money and power,
Since, I had to fulfill my promises and vows for the children of my last year school and their parents. I started to brainstorm my next step;
Firstly, I had to choose a Syrian team who has the same vision, those who will represent the live consciousness when the humanity is in a deep sleep,
Mr. Samir and his wife are two old friends' lawyers; are helping the Syrian refugees and they are volunteering their time and labor to help the Syrians in the region,
Rabie'a is a young guy who used to come my home and encourage me. He is working so hard to offer the help for every Syrians.
Pro Yasser is a well-educated man; I was so happy introducing to him and know about such amazing wise man.
All of us met to find the solution; I had informed them about my plan to start the work. All of us agreed to work on the team soul.
They introduced me to one of religious men in the area and told me he might help us, since he has good relations with Arabs community. I met him in his office, he was such kind man and he promised that he will do his best. I couldn't wait him since the time is running in hurry and now it is more than one month for starting the schools. Abo Samir a school owner visit my home to offer me his school to start registration the new students,
"You can use my school for running your job. And the school rent will be 35 $ for every student.
"Well let me think and figure out if I can start or not".
The problem of funds was the biggest
"OMG what kind of adventure," I need a lot; School renting, books, teachers' salaries, school supplies and a lot of other expenses.
How can I offer them? "Well I am not frustrated", my goal is a sublime one and I am sure Allah will be with me. I sat so sad for many nights trying to figure out the solution,
Let me try with Sama if she is able to bring back bags and school supplies with her from USA.
Mr. Mohammed, Oh yeas, the amazing, Syrian, generous man, who I met last year when he helped the students to pay for buses fee in the school. Let me call him, "I thought".
It was the 3rd of November, when I got the most amazing news I have ever heard. Mr. Mohammed assured me that he can pay for the school renting,
"I am working for Allah and for my duty, I am a normal laborer. Although, I don't have sufficient funds to cover the school for the whole year, but I will try my best to offer from my own labor and help those children to be enlightened and construct schooling for every deprived child in the area. I am with you guys, keep up and start the school"
I couldn't believe what I've heard!! , the school will be found,
But there are still a lot waiting me, books, teacher salaries, school supplies.
Mr. Mohammed was for me the savior for every deprived children,
The hope was filling every corner of my soul, Can I?
Yeas I can.
It was Thursday morning when I've started my day. The weather sounds perfect to sip my coffee on the rooftop .at that day I was inspired by everything around, the dimmed horizon started to polish gradually. It was the daybreak time. The rooster was yielding for every creature; it was awakening the earth, announcing the birth of a new day.
I was watching the sun disk blooming, some clouds were gathering here and there in the sky, like the cattle were following each other .the birds started to sing their everyday symphony, on their sounds the trees reacted and started to dance pushed by the western breeze who hosted them. The folk of seagulls were soaring over sea sphere watching wishfully to join me and be part of this union.
The sun, the clouds, the morning birds, the trees, the rooster and everything in nature are working in a harmonic way to complete each other. I was part of this harmony , I was part of this cycle , My eyes stared at the sphere of the infinite ocean , My ecstasy was when I recognized how nature works
It was 7:30 am my time to do my daily list, and prepare my Nescafe. The first place to start my labor was the school. It was 8:15, when I first arrived to the school. The children surrounded me ." the school is clean Sir "a group of them shouted . Another group came to me telling "Ahmed brought his extra back bag to his friend Khalid, another child took my hand bag telling me, let me help you. It was very rare feeling,
It was 10:30 am when I had to meet the teachers; my meeting lasted for twenty minutes. Me and them agreed to work in the soul of a team work, and if all the people let our children down we won't.
I appreciated them and I ended the meeting after I was assured that they are doing their jobs perfectly
My next course was to 'Akkar region' it is about 40 km north of Tripoli where I carried a bag of gifts to the Syrian refugee's children of Al-Nour school.
It was 1:30 pm when I was there. I was welcomed warmly by the principle and the teachers, "you came on time" the principle said, we have a celebration in the school. I was happy for that. Firstly, let me see the children of the school,
about 200 shiny faces were looking to me .they are the children of the school.
I am Mustafa , I am Syrian Like you , I have 350 kids like you they love you so much , they had a gifts from a sweet American kids like you and them , they had theirs ,and asked me to give you yours . The smiles filled every child face. There are still people who are thinking about you and appreciating you dears .
you are the third school who who had from this inspiring gifts ,
Kids! My advice to you is, to be one, where everyone helps the other, clean your school, respect your teachers, and obey your parents at home. And do your homework daily. Me, and the director of the school will be in every class, sharing you the gifts after the celebration.
The celebration started with a ritual religious praising of our prophet Mohammed (peace be up on him). I was shocked when I've noticed that the celebration had lasted so long while we have our comfortable chairs and the children are standing, the principle is a religious man , he started his speech and he was talking to the children in a very difficult standard Arabic language. The children looked so tired unknowing what his speech is about , I asked them to stop , that isn't fair . Stop that. All of them were silent, when I was talking, that enough for them.
I have shared the gifts for the children; I have finished my visit to this school at 2:30 pm. I was told by the director of the school that there is another school wish to meet me. They are not so far from here, it is a big school for 700 Syrian displaced kids . The school starts at 3 pm," he said"
Well- lets go. I am happy to be part of these lovely kids time. I wish I had more gifts to share with them. It was about 30:30 pm when I was in the school.
I spent more than one hour wandering and watching the children .it was a mixed feeling of bitterness and sadness looking to their faces. There is a tragedy behind every child word, a lot of suffering and cruelness rolled their life in these three years. Nobody cares, I have seen the children learning in the dark, it was the evening there is no electricity in the school. Only their shiny faces gave the lights to the teachers to teach them. The reflection of darkness, in the rooms of the school, transformed in my mind into light. Yeas it is the light of hope , I did recognized what is the meaning of this ten thousand years of civilization in Syrian . the resolution in their eyes was so remarkable . Isn't a dark? I asked one of the classrooms. No Sir ,we see everything , yeas my kids , Your eyes is telling me so , I will do my best to help you dear kids ,( Shokran Ostaz, mabdna ela slamtak ) which means their gratitude for my kind way of offering the help and giving the hope in words , it is unforgettable words comes from the mouths of those lovely angels .
I have met the teachers and the principle which they became for me the only lively conscious in this world. They are insisting to teach their kids in the dark and in the streets while the local and international NGOs are busy with collecting and piling more money. I have promised the teachers and myself that I am going to do my best to help every school who are doing the same like them. I was so affected by the situation of education for Syrians in Lebanon.. The NGOs the local and the international don't have any observer to see that . the Syrians displaced people who don't have their daily food expense volunteered their time and their efforts to keep the process of education still alive .while in NGOs we will find a huge staff they are competing and boasting who have a higher salary . Shame on those who do shame..
It was: 5 pm when I have left the school. I called some of my friends in the area to find a solution for this very serious problem. Me and a group of well-educated people in the area took the responsibility to find channels to help these school and every child out of the school .it was Friday when we called for a conference for eighteen school to enter in a kind of strike for eighteen schools in a different region in Lebanon. We want the media and all the world to listen to our children demands, and their legal right of education, the strike will be under the name of "who doesn't teach me doesn't represent me" and this is a very clear message to Ala'etlaf in Turkey and the international NGOs.
Although I always criticize such kind of meeting but this photo on Shtora to organize the strike . on Monday .
some of the gifts from the USA children to the children of Syria , Sama Wareh brought them with her when she was here in last November .. She shared 350 pieces for Tuyoor Al-Amal school children she had extra 500 gifts she asked me to share them for Syrian kids in other school , I shared them in Two schools. 300 Al-Hadeetha school in Tripoli and 200 in Akkar in Al Nour school ..
At that day; I woke up full with energy and self-esteem. I didn't feel the same ecstasy before .the heaven looked smiling for me like it was saying that in spite of all what's affecting you, there is an open window of hope impossible to be closed by all wars' guns and bombs.
Sama; means the heaven in Arabic or the gold essence in some Arabic dictionaries.
This amazing glint of hope that shined so clearly over the gloomy horizon of our children skies represented a new kind of hope that will emerge in many forms very soon.
For many centuries and the Arabs are glorifying their history, imprisoning themselves in their ancestors' triumphs. This type of thinking which was inherited so long ago .Sama could liberate herself from such kind and she could invent her own platonic thoughts and ideas
.Sama will come through distances crossing the oceans and pastures to help those who are in the utmost need for help; no doubt this magnitude of love and care will either be carried by a heart of poet or artist, and what if Sama was both of them.
The Syrian, American artist will be in her second trip to help the Syrian refugees worldwide, this time she will be in Lebanon in the 7th of November to help the children to do a sustainable art therapy in the school, to hire an art teacher to complete her program after her departure and to train the teachers of the school for the modern technics of education.
Firstly; I didn't tell Sama about the idea of the new plan of the school fearing that I will frustrate her from doing her own commitments; especially she is coming for an established school.
"Are you able to offer school supplies and back bags for 300 children in the school?" I emailed her.
It was the second day when I was informed by Sama of her willingness.
"Yes, I can"
Although; they were only two words, but I found in them all the world's treasures.
The time was running in hurry,
"What about the books?"
"Well" The Ngo I had worked for last year had printed extra books.
I will try with them.
"Wow" school renting, school supplies, back bags, part of the books, and the volunteer teachers are ready to start the school.
Me and my group started registration the students in Abo Samir School in the third of November, it was only the second day of starting our school when abo Samir started to interfere in the work, and I was so shocked by his behaviors,
I had to find a solution.
… Abo Mahmoud was in my house to meet abo Samir to make an agreement about the school renting. It was the surprise when Abo Samir didn't react kindly with abo Mahmoud. Furthermore; he wanted to force his own conditions to the work.
The humble, Syrian donor was so kind to him and in polite way he answered;
"I will leave you a reply with Mustafa whether; I am going to hire you school or not"
Mustafa; I trust you but I didn't like that man, try to find another school,
I was so frustrated. "What shall I do? I have been using his school for many days."
Although the last year school sounded the best solution but it is still under the possession of the Ngo I worked for.
"I have to try with it."
It was the 6th of November when I met the municipality chief of dier Ammar in his office,
"Well- Mustafa. I donated the school for free to the NGO you were working for, but they didn't pay any kind of thanks or gratitude, so this year will be so different.
"Do you have ten thousand USD for hiring my school?" he exclaimed.
"What about the furniture?" I asked.
Since; I was the principle of the same school last year so I know all the details about it. The school owner has the building while the furniture of the school belongs to the Ngo.
"Mustafa, they are your pre-masters, they might help you, they are boasting of their help for Syrian refugees." He said.
"Well – let me try with them".
I called the lawyer of the Ngo when I was still in the chief office.
"Yeas, we agree but 1500 USD for the whole school year." He answered me.
Although the total costs of purchasing new furniture will be the same amount. But the time was running rapidly.
I was working day and night to make the school is opened before Sama's arrival since she is only for fifteen days in Lebanon.
I was in race with time, seeing the Lebanese children have been more than one month in their schools while our children are imprisoned in their stores. Those reasons stimulate me more to hurry as possible as I can.
. Abo Mahmoud was so positive in his attitude. He agreed to pay the 11500 USD; 10000 $ for the school's renting and 1500 $ for the Ngo for the furniture's hiring.
It was ten pm when I was home again. I was so exhausted and tired I looked into my billow wishing to hug it for only few minutes, but how for my eyes to sleep and my eyelids to close while a lot of commitments aren't done yet.
It was 3: am when the last guest left my home.
He was abo Samir cousin. He warned me when he left by his last words "nobody can protect you from abo Samir anger"
Oh Allah, what kind of stress and pressure after this very long day of handling people's greediness. The two biggest challenges were waiting me for tomorrow.
Firstly, telling abo Samir about leaving his school then Sama's arrival will be on the same day.
"The ninth of November will be a crucial day in my life."
Sama's arrival will be in the evening of 7th of November,
"I am sure she will be shocked. There is no school nor children or teachers yet, plus these troubles with finding a school building"
My eyes rested in a deep sleep for a few hours. It was nine am when I had to go to abo Samir office and apologize about stopping work in his school.
I started explaining to him the reasons behind leaving his school. Rapidly he got mad and started to threat my life and the life of every child in the school if I didn't pay him 5000 USD for these five days of using his school. The argument lasted for more than five hours between me and him.
The 700 USD, my kind words and my praising to him didn't work with his mentality. I ended the clash between me and him with these words
"There is no earthy power can stop what Allah decided in his heaven, I fear Allah not men. Do whatever you want; kill me, slay me I don't care. But if any wrong happen to any Syrian child, then you are waging a war."
His furious, livid face and the pack of cigarettes that he had smoked were referring to his blind malice.
It was 3: pm when I left his office to Beirut where I am going to meet Abo Mahmoud to accompany me to the airport where, I will meet a hope that may heal some of my tortured, exhausted, worries.
"What's matter Mustafa?" Abo Mahmoud asked me.
Sir "the humanity lows are so cruel to the subtle hearts"
Allah with us Mustafa, so don't worry dear." He assured me."
Can I ask you a favor please?"
Sure Mustafa" he answered me in a very calm way. "
It's only few minutes and I am going to meet people whom my eyes didn't meet theirs before. Please sir, I wish not to tell them about what's going on here with us.
"But they will know"
I will tell them in the suitable time.
It was five pm when Sama who I've seen her photos with her cowboys' hat only on YouTube and through her website; appeared to me walking through the arrival corridors
"Sama" I cried
A tall young lady in her twenties with a very bright face , a special smile on her face, with fashionable, oriental dress and very decent veil. Her eyes were roaming to the people preceded by a young lady in her twenty or maybe less. Lina the charming, young lady who accompanied Sama to Lebanon to help refugees with medicine as Sama told me about her in one of her emails.
"How are the school and the children?" The first question from Sama to me after, she introduced to me.
It was the hardest question I have ever been asked
"Tell her everything Mustafa; let her tell the world how you were treated today by that guy." Abo Mahmoud spoke in behalf.
"Saturday will be the first day of our school, every things is fine Sama"
I replied confidently.
For me everything was ready to set up the school and all what I have needed someone who encourages, inspires and be a laborer person like me. Sama's enthusiasm was very clear from her first question, and she seemed the exact person I am looking for at that time.
Although my fatigued body sounded so clear in my tiresome eyes but my soul was in a total tranquility and unprecedented satisfaction.
For unknowable reasons Sama ignored Abo Mahmoud words.
"Ok Mustafa let's go home, Lina will wait my mom's arrival in her uncle home in Beirut, they will join us in the coming days" Sama said cheerfully.
Sama has already known about Tripoli war and we had to stay in Beirut that night. Abo Mahmoud drove us his home. She seemed comfortable with us and listened carefully while Abo Mahmoud was busy in telling the story of our assumed school.
While their conversation my thoughts sank into a deep contemplation.
For a while I forgot about this artificial world and I created my own world where I would like to carry all the humanity burdens and worries and through them in an isolated somewhere.
Abo Mahmoud suggested "we will move in a short tour to introduce Sama to the most momentum places in Beirut"
She stared at me waiting my reply.
Beirut which considers the most attractive, modern city in the Middle East where the beauty was emerged .It meant nothing for me that moment, Neither to Sama as her eyes were telling. "We have a lot of accumulated labor is waiting us" I informed her.
We drove Abo Mahmoud home it was 800: pm when we've got home. I have told her about the school plan and what I would like to do with my threats and worries.
It was midnight when the time of sleep was announced by Abo Mahmoud.
The drowsiness abandoned my fatigued eyes again for that night .it was so late when finally my rosy dreams started to bloom and my homeless soul started its journey for its eternal tranquility and ease
Just few hours abo Mahmoud woke me up to pray Al-Fajr together.
I looked up from the balcony of abo Mahmoud's flat to watch the dawn that dissolved all my worries away and took me in a celestial trip.
The autumn birds were warbling the symphony of the day .when altogether finished their morning melody. The cypress trees knelt slightly for the Mother Nature in a kind of gratitude. The western breezes played over my cheeks gently flowing directly into the core of my essence. Like the embryo the sun disk was pushing the spheres to announce the birth of that day. The creation of that day and the Godly harmony of the nature elements stunned me and gave me more faith .In my this time of contemplation I realized that; when the humans are in a direct relation with their creator and contemplate in the simplest things of creation no doubt; they themselves can be a creator
I organized my thoughts and I started thinking about my next step. That moment .the day of real creation has already started.
I had to have my breakfast and my guest before we leave Beirut into Der Ammar in Tripoli to the home where I am staying with my family.
Every moment at that day was so meaningful to me.
On the way to my home while Abo Mahmoud was busy in chatting with Sama naming every corner he was passing through.
I was preparing everything on the phone firstly I had to call the bus drivers who were working with me in the last year
I assigned a meeting in my home at 2 pm on the same day.
"Well the buses drivers welcomed the idea and they confirmed our meeting. The first step was done successfully. Telling the children and their parents was my next step. I had to call Mr. Samir the lawyer.
"Me and my guests will be home 10 am, please prepare the draft for sending the message for the phone numbers of my last year students and the new 100 students who registered in Abo Samir school ." I informed him
"Everything will be done inshallah, I will be and my wife at your home 4 pm. " he replied.
Sama was listening to my phone conversation carefully. With her encouraging words I was inspired
The time was running so quickly .I wanted to make sure that everything is prepared before my home arrival.
My American guest seemed interested more than me with her ignorance to chat about any other topic but the school and the Syrian refugees' kids.
Her funny question about the school keys had embarrassed me
"Well let me check about this." I answered.
I called the school owner about them
"I don't have them Mustafa they are with the lawyer of the NGO, call him to get them." He replied my call
Since the greedy and the envy is the nature of many arrogant people, I was sure I will be fought especially by those who are filling their mouth with helping the Syrians under the name of humanity and religion.
I wasn't shocked at all when I was answered by the rejection to give me the keys till I pay the 1500$ for them after.
"Well I will come to your home now to pay you" quietly, I answered him
His words was like the bullets to my ears when he rejected and said that I have to wait for the two coming days .his rude, barren argument made me cut the call without reaching to my goal .
Sama worries of my call had to be extinguished by a word of assurance of me.
Don't worry Sama nothing bad, you also have rats in USA?"I said smilingly.
"Give me his phone number to talk with him "Abo Mahmoud said angrily.
"Be quite sir. I know the key to get the keys "confidently I answered them.
I called one of his relatives in the town where this person was in mind to be one of the bus drivers for the school since he was working with me last year also
It was only ten minutes when the driver called me back ;telling me that the keys will be my home at 6 pm .
With a deep sight I gave the consolation for my two accompanies.
Now everything is sorted out like I wish all what I need to be home to start my labor.
I got home 11:30 am. Sama who I thought about her the fashionable lady who came from USA to show me and my family the modernized face of culture, she behaved with my family amazingly .Sama wasn't surprised at all with the number of people who are going to stay with them ,
"Sama, we are twenty three people. We are representing all the human ages, starting from new born babies ending by the aged. Every one of them has a different story from the war affections.
Me, my widow sister with her seven kids and my mom are living in these two rooms. They will be yours, your mom, and Lina home for the coming fifteen days. On the other hand; me and the others will divide each other to stay in my two other sisters apartments.
The cracked, old fashion house attracted Sama with its mountainous, maritime view. Although the 48 hours traveller should be exhausted and ask for some of relaxing and comfort but my amazing guest without any hesitation she put her luggage and asked my children to gather around and start her labor.
It was 1:30 pm when I came back home with abo Mahmoud from the mosque to find my guest had started organizing things for tomorrow the expected time of the school starting .My small room was centered with Sama and more than twenty children I knew my nieces and nephews and the others I guessed about them to be from the neighborhood .It seems they're celebrating the American guest arrival .she and the children were sorting out the school supplies that she brought from her country to the school children
The bus drivers came on time.
After I agreed with them about the reasonable fee I told them about the expected time, and place where they had to bring our children from in the five regions where our children are staying.
I ended my meeting with them to have another guest visiting my home the lawyer and his wife where I prepared the form of the message that will be sent. It was five pm when my phone had started receiving the calls from the children parents about their inquiries concerning the school .on the same time I got the school keys from the bus driver who falls behind of his friends to do his duty of getting the school keys.
The Syrians parents' guests who flowed to my home by receiving the message, my Lebanese neighbors who would like to introduce to Sama and many other commitments delayed me to go to school and check about its situation.
It was eight pm when me, the children in my home and Sama went to school.
Oh horrible what I've seen everything is missed in the school plus the dirtiness!! That made me frustrated for a moment.
"Sama I didn't assign a worker for the school yet." I informed Sama
Her sparkling, determined eyes would like to tell me something. "Mustafa be sure that I crossed thousands of miles not for tourism I am here to work and to serve the Syrians refugees kids, I crossed this very long distances and all my wish is to do something so if you feel tired go home me and the children will follow you .when we will finish cleaning ." Proudly she answered me.
How for our mental deficiency to understand such divine behavior and the depth of its meaning
Where; wherever you behave modestly you will be ennobled.
"Well let's do it together" I answered here
It was ten pm when we came home back again after we accomplished our mission.
I, Sama, and my children worked so cooperatively to be sure of Saturday will be the day where the Spirit of the school will be Inflatable and our very tiresome past days be harvested successfully.
Saturday, 8: am, the 9th of November was the date of birthing the tree of our school. This tree which will carry 350 different colored sprouts which need a lot of toil and drudgery to be grown neatly.
This date which will be the outset of sinking into the depth of Syrian children trauma and try to figure out the best therapy for their so deep wounds, and pains.