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August 12, 2018

The Playground| Sara Naja| MArch ’19

by snaja

Having completed the Lebanon phase of my internship, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Up until a year ago, I had lived in Lebanon my whole life. I was there during the start of the Syrian refugee crisis and through all its phases. Nevertheless, I had not seen refugee camps up close before and had merely visited the areas in which they are present a few times. The conditions in which refugees are living do not even come close to basic life necessities. They are harsh for children and adults alike. The financial aid they are receiving from NGOs is not sufficient to live a comfortable life, and the government is practically nonexistent. Nevertheless, the refugees tend to maintain a positive attitude, supporting their own mental well being, an essential necessity for survival.

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I continued visiting the playground and talking to refugee kids in the area. The impact the playground has on the kids exceeded my expectations. It provides them with a space to be kids and nothing more. They forget their problems, stresses, hardships they have been through, and hardships they know they still have to go through. They can concentrate on the activities in front of them and interact with other children. They make friends with one another as they share similar experiences in life in addition to parallel future struggles they know they have to encounter. They hesitate to talking about what they have been through. Moreover, younger children do not fully understand where they are from. Some do not remember moving to Lebanon whereas others were born in Lebanon. Those born in Lebanon do not know whether they are Syrians or Lebanese as they are incapable of receiving either nationality. They either spend the rest of their lives in Lebanon with the inability to travel or they eventually return to Syria to be able to receive the Syrian nationality, although that brings a new round of safety concerns. Unfortunately, these kids do not yet fully comprehend the difficulties of their circumstances and their parents are helpless in supporting them, both economically and developmentally. Encountering these children and their circumstances up close was a sobering experience. Understanding the refugee crisis through the media has almost no window into the reality. We get used to talking about numbers, but in fact every single one of the millions of children has an elaborate story, and faces excruciating hardship.

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During my time in Lebanon, talks about the future of a Karam House continued. The idea is to be able to open one in Bekaa. The Bekaa region of Lebanon contains over a million and a half Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It is approximately an hour and a half drive away from Beirut, the capital, and 15 minutes away from the Syrian border. The camps are located in various areas of Bekaa. The area is predominantly agricultural, and so most children end up working in the fields. A Karam House in Bekaa would be able to benefit the refugee kids and open doors for their futures. It does, however, require a lot of analysis and preparation in terms of navigating the political situation, especially with talks of refugees beginning to return to Syria. How many refugees will actually return, and what will they be returning to?

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