"I never expected this as my life." 13-year-old Mais fled with her family to Lebanon from her home in Syria.
I remember as a child spending Christmas at my grandmother’s house. My cousins and I used to set up a tent to get away from all the activity in the house and have our own space away from all the adults. We would have tea parties, and if we were lucky, we’d get to sleep in it overnight.
When I met Mais, a 13-year-old Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, my childhood memories came rushing back to me. I was taken aback by her bubbly demeanour and I could tell she’d be the girl everyone would want to be friends with in school. But here, she is a refugee. Here, her brothers search bins in the neighbouring town in hope of striking lucky and finding some additional food scraps, or maybe some clothes someone has thrown out.
When Mais told me about pitching a tent, and having picnics outside her home my eyes welled up with tears. That was me when I was younger. That would have been many of us – but this young dreamer has a very different memory of her tent-pitching days.
“I used to have fun with my friends and talk about living in a tent, or spending some time in a tent for fun, like an entertainment but I thought for real, I would never live in a tent for real, but it is happening for real,” she told me.
“Sometimes I pretend that I am not in Lebanon, that I am with my friends in Syria, I imagine that and feel it, and then when I think about it again I see myself in Lebanon. This is for real – I am in Lebanon.”
The power of her incredible imagination only goes so far. She is a smart girl, whose favourite subject was biology. She would like to be a science teacher when she grows up.
“It’s like a bad dream, I couldn’t believe that our house was totally destroyed and it was all on the ground.” She knows that if she gets to return to her homeland, things will not be the same. “If I return to Syria, I know I will sleep on the ground.”
The uncanny similarities of children touched me that day. Children are children. Unfortunately, these days Mais doesn’t play. She’s searching for any kind of work to help contribute to their dire situation when she should be in school, and pitching tents on the weekends playing house with her friends.
There are ways you can help. Please share Mais’ story, or if you can, donate to World Vision’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal.