by Eleonora, Burj al Shemali, September 2019
A house with 4 rooms: A living room, a small bathroom, a basic kitchen and a bedroom nowhere near adequate for a family of eight people.
Maher and his wife Mariam, 39 and 33 respectively, and married for 16 years do not suffer the minor irritants that afflict the majority of western households, they are faced with a series of serious seemingly indissoluble problems. They are denied the right to work, so they have no money and are forced to live in a house that is not only far too small for a family of eight, but has no proper floor, is damp and leaks.
They cannot send their four year old daughter to nursery, cannot buy school materials for the older children and cannot go to the seaside even though it is only a few kilometers from their home.
The children are Malak, 14; Malik, 13; Maria, 7; Manissa, 4; Mina, 2 e Mohammad, 7 months: I got to know them all in Burj Al-Shamali camp, in Lebanon. I was given a warm welcome by the family and shown such hospitality that it was hard to believe that this family had nothing. Despite my very limited knowledge of Arabic, their mother tongue, we managed, through smiles and gestures and with the help of a small dictionary, to communicate as if there was no such thing as a language barrier.
Mariam only completed elementary school and since then has worked and run the home. Perhaps for this reason, she wants her children to have access to education and the opportunities that this can provide. Her husband, Maher would like to work but doesn’t have a permanent job and works casually, only when he is called. What is more, due to a back condition, he needs to be careful, otherwise he might do himself more damage and this would clearly exacerbate their economic situation.
Even though the social, economic and medical state of this family is very complicated, it was surprising to see such joy and serenity in their faces. Happiness that comes from living together, united. Happiness that is sustained thanks to the love that this couple continue to feel for one another. Happiness that in our country despite never having to face such adversity as this, seems to elude us.