Sylva from Syria lives in Bourj Hammoud since the beginning of the war in her country

“I have always taken my mother’s example. She’s a woman who has worked since we were little, she’s a seamstress. She is generous too. With the little she has, she helps others”.

Sylva Abdo
16 years old
Bourj-Hammoud (Beirut Suburb)

“I was 6 years old when I arrived to Lebanon with my brother, my father and my mother. Dad, who is a technician, worked in an air conditioning company in Lebanon and my mother found a job as a seamstress in a small enterprise. I went to school in Lebanon and then in 2018 we had to go back to Syria because of my father’s official papers. We stayed there for a year. I had to adapt to the school and the society in Syria. In Lebanon, women are more free, people are more permissive. In Syria, for example, everyone was shocked that I came from a mixed school. In Syria, too, you have to dress a little differently. Besides, I can’t speak with the Syrian accent anymore. I also needed to make new friends. In fact, I feel much better in Lebanon than in Syria.

“In the summer of 2018, we returned to Lebanon without my father. We had the chance to rent again the same apartment in Bourj Hammoud. My brother and I returned to the same private school. And then the confinement of the Coronavirus began. I studied online, and since I don’t have a computer or a tablet, I used my mom’s cell phone.

“When I was younger I dreamt of becoming an astronaut but with time I became more realistic and changed my mind. As I love geography, I decided to become an airline pilot.

“My family and I have spent days trying to validate the school year spent in Syria with the relevant Lebanese authorities. In vain. And now I find myself with the best grades in my class without the possibility of being promoted to the next grade because of the official documents that are missing.

 “I don’t know what to do, really. I am hopeful, maybe in the days to come it will be validated and I could move on, otherwise I’ll repeat the class or go back to Syria to study and live with my father. I miss him a lot. I often talk to him on the phone but it’s not the same.

“It’s also difficult in our society to live without an adult male at home. The whole members of the family think that they are entitled to giving you remarks. My maternal uncles for example who live in Lebanon give their opinion on everything we do.

“The Coronavirus lockdown has certainly made me spend much more time at home. But since the double explosion in Beirut two months ago, I have found myself an activity that I love. I joined a small NGO. We helped the inhabitants of the neighborhood whose houses and shops were damaged by the explosion to clean up, we distributed food parcels; we helped restore 12 houses.

“Nothing gives you more happiness than giving. It makes me very happy to help others, to be there for them. When I give, I am even happier than the one who receives.

“On the day of the explosion, I was with my mother at the neighbors’ house. We heard a huge noise, the building rocked, the power was cut and then there were ambulance sirens. I was so scared that I didn’t want to sleep at home anymore. My maternal aunt came to pick us up, everything was broken around us. The next day we went to the Bekaa valley, to my paternal uncles and we returned after a few days to Bourj Hammoud. And from the day I came back to Bourj Hammoud, I started to help. I am from Syria, I was a victim of the war and I don’t want other people to go through the same thing as me.

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