Amid this hectic holiday season, it can be a challenge to slow down and consider what we are thankful for. We count the number of people coming to our holiday gatherings or the number of items on our to-do lists, but we often forget to count our blessings. Take a moment, right now, and ask yourself what you are grateful for this season. Who and what are bringing joy to your life right now? The incredible thing about gratitude is how it transforms into hope when we make time for it.
Across the world in Lebanon, we asked Syrian refugee children the same question. Their answers were beautiful and humbling, yet remarkably similar. The kids are not recent refugees, but veterans, as many have been living outside of Syria for years. The war stole their childhood, and now poverty is stealing their education. As refugees, most of these youth do not attend school. Instead, they spend their days selling CDs and other items on the streets. But still, they have hope. Here is what they are thankful for this season.
Sedra, 12, (in pink) lives with her parents in the fields of Akkar. She spends her days at school or at home with her parents and siblings. She attends World Vision’s psychosocial support sessions for working children. Sedra loves to draw and engage in discussions about equality and discrimination. “I am thankful for my parents and their kindness towards us, and I am also thankful for my sisters because we like playing together,” she says.
Fourteen-year-old Yazan is thankful to be safe this year. “I am thankful for our safety, and the opportunity we had to get safely out of our house in Syria after bombings shattered it apart. My mother was stuck inside but, thank God, she got out safe.” He, too, works during the day selling items on the streets of Akkar. But World Vision is helping child laborers like him by providing community-based sessions that teach children about safety on the streets.
Fawaz, 15, has lived in Akkar with his family in an informal tent settlement (ITS) since they left Syria seven years ago. Fawaz attends World Vision’s community-based sessions at the ITS. During the day, like many of the boys in his settlement, he sells things on the streets. He loves to play with his little siblings. When asked what he is grateful for, he says, “I am thankful for the presence of my parents and for not getting hurt during the war in Syria.”
Koutayba, 13, arrived in Lebanon from Syria seven years ago. He remembers playing in the streets of his hometown. The young teen attends the Peace Road sessions by World Vision in Akkar. He loves to learn methods of problem-solving through communication and not by force. Koutayba lives with his parents and four siblings and says, “I am thankful for my health. I never get sick or suffer from any disease or accident.”
Hammoud, 14, came with his family to Lebanon nine years ago to escape the war in Syria. Two years later, he started working on the streets of Akkar, selling CDs. When asked what he is grateful for, he shares, “I am thankful for my parents. I am thankful for being able to work and for having a roof over our head. I am also grateful for World Vision’s presence.” Hammoud attends World Vision’s psychosocial support sessions for working children each week.
“I am thankful because I am healthy and not sick. I can move freely and do not suffer from any disability,” says Mhammad, 13. He adds, “I am also thankful for World Vision staff and their kindness towards us.” Mhammad has lived in Akkar for eight years now. He works during the day, selling what he can on the streets. Like Hammoud, he attends World Vision’s psychosocial support sessions for working children.
Eleven-year-old Sara lives with her mother, father, and six younger siblings in an ITS in Akkar. They arrived seven years ago to escape the war in Syria. “I am thankful for my father’s safety and that he did not die in the war, like other fathers,” she says. “I am also thankful that we are not homeless.”
Maria Bou Chaaya of World Vision’s office in Lebanon contributed to this piece.