Life in limbo: Aya's story

16 August 2019

Aya, 24, is one of over one million refugees who is living in Lebanon. She is walking down a street in Tripoli.

Aya, 24, is one of over one million refugees who is living in Lebanon. 

Read how this project supported by CAFOD helped a young refugee to cope when her family was forced to leave their home in Syria.

Imagine you are a teenager at school studying for your exams. You hear the news that a political protest is happening a few towns away, but you don’t think much of it.

A few hours later, things begin to escalate. The government has sent out troops to subdue the protesters but the violence seems to be escalating.

You can’t go to school the next day or the day after. Constantly watching the news, eventually, that moment you have been dreading is realised: “Breaking news: War declared”.

For a moment the whole world seems to stand still.

Your family decides to leave – the journey is dangerous, but it seems better than the alternative. Weeks later, you arrive in a neighbouring country. First, you need water and food. Then you need shelter and documents. The list continues to grow, and your short supply of money begins to run out.

You can only watch the news helplessly as the places you love are destroyed. You worry about family and friends who are left behind.

And as the months stretch into years, your hope of returning to the place you used to call ‘home’ begins to dwindle.

Although this may seem like a scene from a thriller novel, being forced from home due to war, persecution or violence is the reality for 65.6 million refugees around the world.

Refugees like Aya.

“We came just to spend the summer in Lebanon," she explains, "but then the crisis happened, and we had to stay for seven years.”

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Futures put on hold

Aya is one of the more than a million Syrian refugees living in neighbouring Lebanon. It is still a distant dream for Aya and her family to think about returning home. As the Syrian war enters its ninth year, they feel that it still isn’t safe to go back.

“We came just to spend the summer in Lebanon but then the crisis happened, and we had to stay for seven years.”

Aya, a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon

“In Syria, I studied, I had lots of friends and did lots of activities outside of school,” Aya says. “In Lebanon, there are few opportunities for a young person like me. I’m here, caught in the middle of this conflict.”

In spite of the many challenges she has faced, Aya has managed to continue her education and she now has a psychology degree. But many other young people like her have had their lives put on hold due to the conflict.

Offering refugees a lifeline

One thing that has helped Aya to cope with life in limbo is getting involved in the ‘Youth Resolve’ project.

Supported by CAFOD and funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis – the EU MADAD Fund – it offers young Syrian and Lebanese people the chance to get to know each other through job skills training, education and community activities such as renovating homes in their communities.

A young woman sitting in front of trees

One thing that has helped Aya to cope with life as a refugee in Lebanon is getting involved in the ‘Youth Resolve’ project.

“The main objective of the project was to create better relations between Syrians and Lebanese youth, which was very important as there were some tensions,” Aya says.

“The first time we joined the project, we went to a camp that was organised by the youth and we were painting an old school. After the project was done, we wanted to stay on as volunteers. We worked with Lebanese and Syrian young people on many projects and we are all still in contact.”

The project – which works with young people aged nine to 25 across Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq – hopes to bring people together in communities with high levels of Syrian refugees. Over two years, the project reached more than 100,000 people.

By taking part in the project, Aya believes she has been able to initiate change in her wider community.

“When everyone sees that the youth are friends with each other – whether they are Lebanese or Syrians – the tensions can disappear," she says. "We can feel more comfortable and have a better understanding between us.”

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