Ghoufran is a 10-year-old girl from Homs, Syria. She was born in a very remote village and she barely saw anything modern. It was a big cultural shock for her when she first went to the city of Homs. The war erupted soon after, and she and her family had to flee to a camp in Lebanon.
Ghoufran found herself in conditions similar to those in her remote village. Once again, the place where she lived leaked, flooded, and had no electricity or running water. Once again, the restroom was a far-off cabin that was shared and often freezing cold. She now lives in a shed and over time her father added bricks to its walls to give it a little more stability and keep it standing against the wind. She lived in a city of tents—hundreds upon hundreds of them, with muddy and narrow roads in between.
Her father lost all of his possessions in Syria, and had to start from scratch at the internationally displaced people’s camp in Southern Lebanon. Him being known by everyone in the camp, he was appointed as the head of the camp (or as they call him, the “shaweesh”). His job as the “shaweesh” is to resolve conflict, be sure that everyone gets everything equally, and try to find additional help to his camp. It is a very demanding job that requires much of his time and energy, knowing that he already has a family of 12 children to take care off. Ghoufran grew up in this community where everybody looked up to her father for assistance of all kinds.
Being the youngest of her 12 siblings, she is often overlooked in the sea of siblings and nieces and nephews. That does not bother her as she enjoys playing with them, especially since some of her nieces and nephews are a year or two her junior. Though the youngest, she wanted to go to school like some of her friends at the camp. She was insistent and her father decided to enroll her in a school for the displaced in a village close by the camp. She now goes there in the afternoon, three times a week. On Tuesday, she does not go to school, but “has something even better to do,” as she said. She comes to Heart for Lebanon’s center in the South to attend Hope on Wheels Club programs.
She is an active girl that loves being outside, and Hope on Wheels is her kind of fun. There she has ample capacity to run and play and compete. She has the chance to draw and color which are two of her favorite activities. “At Hope on Wheels, I learn that lying is against God, and that truthfulness is a virtue to live by. I am often hurt when my friends or siblings lie against me and say false things about me,” she said as tears rolled down her face. “I love God more now knowing that He does not lie and punishes lying.”
As for her life in the camp, Ghoufran is happy there. “We live a happy life at the camp. Of course, I would like to live in a normal house, but I am happy where we are now. Everything is well. I am learning about the love God has for me, and this is enough to make me feel special. My sister Zahraa is my best friend, and it is nice to know that she will never betray me. It feels good.”
Zahraa, Ghoufran’s 13-year-old sister, attends Hope on Wheels programs with her. She loves to sing there and in her free time. “We are a big happy family,” she said. “I am glad that I am an aunt. Many of my sisters are married and have children, and two of my brothers are married and have children. Some of my nieces and nephews are as tall as I am. They are not much younger than us.”
Ghoufran and Zahraa’s father is very grateful that his daughters are attending the Hope on Wheels programs at Heart for Lebanon’s Center. “Before Ghoufran and Zahraa started going there, two other daughters of mine used to go there too. Now, they are older, but the timeless lessons they learned there are in their hearts. I am very grateful for Heart for Lebanon’s care. They stood by me—they stood by my children,” he concluded.