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“The trees are burned and the birds are starving” – Syria through the eyes of children

World Vision
19 February 2014 by Rhonda Hirst
“The trees are burned and the birds are starving” – Syria through the eyes of children

Brothers Amir and Kameron stand in front of their makeshift home in Lebanon. Photo by Nick Ralph, World Vision.

“We are brothers,” they tell us. At first glance, you would think they were twins. Handsome young boys with perfect cheekbones, good manners and a spark about them. Only a year apart, their bond is tight. Tighter than most, as they mourn a mother and a father that disappeared one night from the markets, never to be seen again.

“When the clashes stared in Syria, some people came and took my parents, and I don’t know where they are now, I don’t know who took them. My grandmother came and took us, and brought us here to Lebanon,” Kameron, 9, tells us.

Incredibly strong, kind and loving, the boys last saw their parents two years ago. They have experienced war in a way no child should have to.  Amir tells us of the terrible day he ran away from a building about to be bombed, but his best friend was still inside, later killed by the explosion. “I saw dead people. I saw people on fire. I saw bombs. We saw it with our eyes. We didn’t imagine that someday we would see this.”

And with all my heart, I wish they hadn’t. But they have, and they remember it like it was yesterday.

It’s these horrors that are so hard to relate to. These are the stories that sometimes go unheard – it’s simply too far away from our reality. But it is so many children’s reality.  While I don’t think we should feel bad for the lives we live, there is a social responsibility we need to be accountable for. Why do we push it away, when really we need to bring it closer? Does it bring up emotions we would rather not feel? Yes, it absolutely does. But stories like Kameron and Amir’s deserve our attention.

“I feel like I have to take control. I feel like I need to get food for my family. I go and work in the potato fields to get money for my family.  I work 6am – 12pm.” Amir tells us. He’s ten. He misses his father reading books to him on the balcony, and the birds in the trees back in Syria. “I draw pictures of trees and birds.” he says.

“What has happened to the trees and birds now?” we ask.

“Well, I haven’t seen them in a while, but the trees are all burned and the birds are starving, as there is no one to feed them.”

And that is Amir’s reality. But it is Syria’s as well. We may be hesitant to tell the stories of individual children, with the horrors they face so confronting, but each child is one of hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in the countries around Syria. Each story is one of hundreds of thousands belonging to the children still inside Syria, where the trees are burned and the birds starving.

World Vision has provided Kameron and Amir access to clean water and food, which they tell us has brought immense relief. “I wish there were biscuits in the pack,” says Kameron cheekily.

It seems like such a simple wish, but for a child who has probably wished for so much – his parents, peace, a warm bed and safe house – it’s still a dream outside his reach. The UN and NGOs are doing what they can to make sure Syrian children can have the same hopes and wishes that every other child has. But the complexities of the Syrian crisis are beyond one person to solve, or even understand, and as I left Kameron and Amir I too wished there were biscuits in the pack. It’s the least the world could do.

Find out more about World Vision’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal and how we’re supporting children like Amir and Kameron.

Rhonda Hirst Rhonda Hirst

Rhonda Hirst is Emergency Marketing Manager at World Vision and is currently working in the Philippines for the first anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan.


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