Last week, the SB Beirut Center was alerted about the terrible living conditions of the family of one of our students, Amira. SB works to holistically support our community members, so we went to check on them to see what aid we could provide.

Amira’s family had to flee from Syria and now live in Shatila. She is 8 years old and lives with her parents and her three young siblings. For the last year they have been living in a ‘flat’ made up of two tiny rooms with no windows and no lighting. It is difficult to put into words the conditions in which they were living – it was damp, dark and filled with toxic black mold, rubble and rubbish. They have now moved to another flat on the floor above where the conditions are a little better, but it is still a place that’s hard to imagine calling home. It is effectively a cold, dark concrete box. Between the six of them they had two very old, dirty mattresses, a tiny stove for cooking, and very few personal possessions. The father has a broken knee, and the operation to fix it is not covered by the UN; because the family is Syrian they cannot go to regular Lebanese hospitals. As he cannot walk properly, he has been unable to get employment. To get to their flat he has to climb several flights of stairs. Every day after the market stalls have closed, the family are given free leftover vegetables, which is what they eat to survive. When we visited we brought them food, and the next day we returned with mattresses and other essentials. Next week we will follow up with additional medical assistance for the father as well.

Even though this place was dark and cold and windowless, a brightly shining ray of hope made its way through these bare walls: Amira’s little sister, 5 years old, was jumping around the room, playing games with the volunteers, seemingly undaunted by the devastating conditions she was living in. And there was only one thing she was talking about: she can’t wait to begin school. The manager of the SB Centre in Beirut was quite confident that she will soon. Once a new school cycle begins, he said, she can join one of SB’s classes right away. We can’t wait for her to come brighten our classes at SB either.

by Ciara Connell and Johan Abschenbrenner