“I wish the world would hear us"
Nine-year-old Syrian refugee Salma* has a message. “I wish the world would hear us and I wish the big people would end this tragedy which we had nothing to do with,” she says in a poem she wrote for World Refugee Day, marked annually on 20 June.
Salma is just one of over 4 million children who have become refugees or internally displaced since the crisis in Syria began three years ago. In Lebanon, to where over 1 million Syrians have fled, 53 per cent of registered refugees are children. The numbers are staggering, yet their voices often go unheard.
To mark three years of displacement, Save the Children and WARD, a Syrian volunteer organization, organized a ten-day poetry, puppet show and song workshop for children in Tripoli. The activities were designed to enable them to creatively articulate their feelings through fun team-building activities. In the days leading up to World Refugee Day, 25 children aged 8-15 worked on poems and songs, and also designed puppets and masks for a short skit. The activities culminated in a performance for parents and families on June 17.
“Enough with death, I want to start living again, be happy again and grow up with my friends with our beautiful country back on its feet again,” Salma told the audience. “We want our dreams back! We have become too tired and bored.”
The puppet show told the story of a Syrian family who had fled to Lebanon and were sleeping out in the open until a local family generously offered to host them. The two families grew close, with the adults working side by side on a farm and the children going to school together. The performance ended with a song thanking Lebanon for hosting Syrian refugees.
Ziad, 11, recited a poem highlighting his longing to return to home. “I used to live in my beautiful country Syria, we lived in happiness and joy ... Then suddenly I don't know what happened and we had to leave our homeland. All the love and kindness that I had always had in my life were gone … Now I am a refugee in Lebanon. I like Lebanon but if I could be in Syria right now I would be a lot happier. I wish I could go back there … so I can visit my dad’s grave, water the flowers I planted there, and smell the soil of my homeland.”
*Names have been changed to protect the children’s identities.