Bahiya is a Syrian refugee, who fled with her family to Lebanon, in order to escape the violent conflict going on around them. She thinks she is 10 or 11 years old, but she's not sure.
When she arrived at the tent school we support in Bekaa Valley, the teachers noticed she was stood off to the side, completely uninterested in the developments of the day. She held a girl of three in her arms and another girl of five was yanking on her skirt for attention. It became apparent that these were her siblings, and that she had a choice of staying at home to take care of them or bringing them to class with her.
Throughout alphabet lessons and other activities, Bahiya would simply sit in a corner, wiping her little sister's face while she cradled the other in her arms. After time the teachers could not tell whether or not she was benefiting from the lessons at all. She would not speak in class, would never participate in a group or give any account of the last six months of her life.
The staff decided to keep a closer eye on her and also, with permission from her mother, to find someone else in the camp to watch Bahiya’s sisters while she was at school.
Something clicked, and the difference was loud and immediate. She walked in with a smile and seemed to learn all of her letters in one day. She made more friends than anyone else. Taking away the responsibilities of an adult instantly allowed her to be a child among children.
In a recent evaluation with all the children, when asked who they thought had progressed the most the unanimous decision was Bahiya. The smile on her face was priceless.
Her teacher said “I feel that while she used to believe that there was nothing more to life than taking care of house work and her sisters, now she knows that there is hope for something more. She recently came to me after class and said that she wanted lessons every day. She thanked us for coming to the camp. We both learned something. She has learned that she was still a child and that children are meant to live a different life than adults. I learned that a situation is only hopeless when you have no hope that it can be different”.