In a small UNHCR shelter in the middle of town, Lina and her 5 children are smiling and happy as we enter their home. Lina is 42 years old and a single mother of 5. She lives with her sister who also has two children, one of which is the young boy receiving the milk and diapers assistance program run by LSESD’s community development and relief arm, MERATH. Her five children are a pair of twins at 16, then 12, 9, 5. With sitting pads in their front room and two stoves they show a very simple existence of a family working to survive month to month. Lina is one of many refugee women-headed households in Lebanon struggling to earn income and keep her children fed from day to day.
The fighting started in Syria in 2011 and in 2012 Lina fled to an Aleppo suburb from her home town just north of the city. She stayed there for two months and then fled the country to northern Lebanon with her family. She stayed there for two years but an abusive relationship at home drove her to leave her husband and join her mother and sister and their kids. Soon after she finally found her own place to rent for her children and has been living there for two months. She has been fortunate to find employment as a house keeper up to last month when she had an injury on the job and couldn’t work for the time being. When she had the job she was able to make $330 USD per month to help support her kids. $100 went towards rent per month and the rest goes to food, clothing, utilities and she still has to use some forms of credit on a monthly basis. She is embarrassed because her children wear the same clothes from week to week and only have one set of clothes. With the loss of the job she is thankful for the provision of the two programs that MERATH is implementing in partnership with the local church in the area — the Food Box Distribution and the Milk and Diapers program for her sister’s children. With this assistance she will have consistent food but will likely have to take on debt to cover other household expenses.
Before she fled from Syria life was very good. She lived with her husband and their kids and they were all safe. They had a cherry orchard of 350 trees and only worked in harvest times to pick and prepare the cherries. They enjoyed their life as farmers and lived in peace. She loved her life in Syria but wouldn’t go back since all her family has fled the country because of the war.
Lina is very thankful for the assistance from the church. The food box includes sugar, oil, beans, hummus and other items. Lina says, “Thank Jesus. Give to us. Please do not forget us”. The milk and diapers program is very needed and Lina is so thankful that it provides for her sister’s son who lives with her. Her sister adds to the support from her own earnings every month to try and provide diapers as much as she can as well. Through the support she has received, her family will hope to make it through until she can find work again. Lina has hope for the future and looks forward to a day when her children can live like other children and be fully provided for. Lina says, “I want life to be 100% different from the life I live right now.”