Money to pay the rent arrears

Yousra, 8 years old, no longer goes to school, she spends her days in the streets of Tripoli selling handkerchiefs.

Hassan Jaaban is 33 years old, his wife Souheir is 28 years old. Both are from the city of Hama and came to Lebanon from Syria in 2012, just over a year after the war.

Hassan has not worked for more than six months. He had been a vegetable street vendor. But one day when he was at the Abu Ali roundabout, a busy artery in Tripoli, some men came, chased him away and broke his cart.

“Someone gave the cart to me around a year ago. I can’t afford another one,” he explains. Since he arrived to Lebanon, Hassan has tried many jobs without ever being able to make ends meet.

The family who has four daughters aged from eight to four share an apartment with two other Syrian families in Tripoli, the capital of northern Lebanon and the poorest city on the Mediterranean.

A program participant of CARE International in Lebanon, Hassan and his family received $ 400 in cash, along with food parcels and hygiene kits.

The money received enabled them to pay the arrears of their rent but the sum will not allow Hassan and Souheir’s two oldest elders, Yousra and Cidra, 8 and 7 years old respectively, to go back to school.

These two little girls work every day to support their family. Yousra sells paper tissues and Cidra sells chewing gum.

“With the lockdown last year, Yousra had online classes, which she couldn’t follow because of the lack of Internet and the old phone we have,” her mother says.

“She was at school for a few months, maybe a little less than two years ago, but she would come home in the afternoon tired and could not go into the streets to sell disposable handkerchiefs and bring money home,’ says Hassan.

Yousra is a pretty little girl. She has straight black hair and sparkling black eyes.

The school two years ago? She remembers it as if it were yesterday. She had made friends and used to play with them, but now she has no contact with them anymore as she works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Yousra has a big smile on her face when she talks about the time she spends with her mother when she comes home or about her little memories of school. But her face floods with tears as she talks about the issues she faces nearly every day on the street. “Last time, boys taller than me chased me away from where I was working. They beat me up and stole my money,”she says. Although some people are nice to her, and give her a lot more than a tissue paper is worth, others insult her or spit in her face. Sometimes, too, men follow her.

Yousra and her sister make around 150,000 liras (US $ 9) every day, a sum they give to their parents every night.

Would she have liked to buy something for herself, at least once with this money? Yousra is silent, thinks, says “no” and bursts into tears.

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