After 4 years of conflict, governments around the world must not abandon the Syrian people.
Mariam, 33, gazes out of her tent at the snow capped mountains and the icy mud encircling the dwellings in the informal camp where she settled with her family in Lebanon's Bekaa valley. "We lived better than kings. Now we can go two months without eating any meat," says the mother of five, who fled Syria's conflict two years ago.
Back in Rif Aleppo, Mariam owned a house and a car, her three teenage daughters were outstanding students, her two sons had many friends, and her husband farmed his land and provided for the family. "Our situation here is terrible. There's no education. My husband needs eye surgery that costs $1,000. Where can we get that amount from?" says Mariam.
Despite the hardships, Mariam doesn't want to lose hope or give up "for the children's sake". Her tent might be cold, and humidity might seep through its tarp walls, but it's clean, tidy and has ornate drapes covering the flimsy walls. Surrounded by her pretty daughters, Mariam reminisces: "In Syria, I used to cook for them so many good things, like sweet rice and cream, and stuffed vegetables, then wait for their return from school." The mother who received an education back home now tries to teach her children, with the basics at hand: some paper, the
occasional pencil. The little education she can pass on to them now, will pay off when they go back to Syria 'one day', she says.
Syria is in a dark place. Will you help turn the lights back on?
Mariam's story is echoed in most of the settlements in Lebanon, where women make up more than half of the 1.1 million registered refugees. And more than 65% of refugee children don't go to school. Noor, a 30 year old teacher and mother, has set up a school in a settlement by the Mediterranean Sea, and offers free classes to children.
When she came to Lebanon, and joined dozens of families in this settlement, she received a very warm welcome. "People knew that I was a teacher back in Syria and they had hopes that I would start a school. I started with very basic resources. We even used to go to the dumpsite and gather card board to write on them instead of notebooks because parents are poor. At first I had 15 students but when parents heard that the school was for free, everyone was encouraged to educate their children.
"Even though I´m a mother and a wife and have to cook, clean and handle many tiring tasks, I'm very optimistic when it comes to those children," she says sitting on the floor of her small tent that turns into a classroom every afternoon. A white board stands in the corner, opposite the kitchen corner where old pots wait for her to cook the day's main meal.
"Not everything is about money. These are the children of our country. They need you, even if you can't help them financially, you can help them morally. You can cultivate them, educate them and make them feel as if they're in their country."