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May 22, 2020

Born in a Refugee Camp: Mariam’s reality

Imagine only ever knowing life in a refugee camp. Imagine not knowing what it’s like to have your own home, to go to school or to feel safe and secure. Well, this is “normality” for five-year-old Mariam*. Born with Down Syndrome, Mariam has spent her entire life in a refugee camp on the border between Syria and Lebanon. Apart from living in poverty, she and her family face many challenges.

Five-year-old Mariam often cries as she’s bullied because of her physical appearance. Sometimes the other children in the camp don’t let her play with them. Yet despite this, it’s never stopped her from being sociable.


From a home to a refugee camp: Syria in crisis

The family hasn’t always lived in Lebanon. Mariam’s parents and older siblings fled Syria seven years ago to escape the conflict. Mariam’s older brother Ahmad* was just ten years old when he had to leave home with his family. Now, Mariam, Ahmad and eight other siblings still live in the refugee camp in abject poverty.

Due to Lebanon’s deteriorating economy, work is hard to come by. The salary from their father’s work is barely enough for the family to survive. This past Winter, they could not afford to buy wood for making a fire. They were forced to burn anything they could find to help fight off the freezing cold in the camp, including their old clothes.

Since arriving in Lebanon, Ahmed and his siblings have never been to school. They simply can’t afford the fees – around 30,000 LBP (R400) a quarter per child. For Mariam and her siblings, without an education there is no hope for a brighter, more prosperous future.