Almost half of 500,000 Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon can’t go to school
- Mohamad and his family built a school in a refugee camp in Lebanon
- This school now teaches 200 refugee children
Mohamad, 16 years old, grew up in Syria, but fled for Lebanon when life became too dangerous at home. Like thousands of other refugee children in the country, he couldn’t go to school, so he set out to make a difference for children in the same situation. Together with his family, Mohamad built a school in a refugee camp where 200 children now access their right to an education. At the age of 12, he already was teaching math and photography. He helps children to heal, learn and have fun with games and photography. Mohamad is a natural storyteller, raising awareness about the challenges facing refugee children by
bringing their stories to a wider audience.
Having to flee from Syria
Mohamad’s parents, active in the Syrian revolution, brought him up to be politically aware. When he was 12, Mohamad’s home town saw the arrival of refugees from war-torn Homs and Hama, and he was moved to help the children that had left everything behind. Mohamad took part in a workshop about helping children traumatized by war by offering them psychosocial support through friendly play.
Not long after, Mohamad became a refugee himself. His mother was arrested and detained twice, and when they received a threat that she would be killed by the regime, his family had to pack their belongings and disappear without saying goodbye.
From Lebanon to Sweden
After a long journey they arrived in Aley, near Beirut in Lebanon. They couldn’t find work in Lebanon, so Mohamad’s father, fleeing by boat via Greece, sought asylum in Sweden. Back in Lebanon, Mohamad, his sister and mother struggled with poverty, but they never lost their will to help others more desperate than themselves. Family reunification was recently granted by Sweden, three years after Mohamad last saw his father.
Building a school, building a future
For his first two years in Lebanon, Mohamad couldn’t go to school. It was a struggle, but rather than defeat him, it fueled his will to fight for a better future, for himself and for his peers. Together with his family, Mohamad started a school for Syrian children in a refugee camp. He built it with his own hands and at the age of 12, he was teaching math and photography. When the government decided to remove the refugee camp, the school was destroyed. But it was rebuilt professionally, and staffed with formal teachers. It now teaches 200 children, who after completing two years can move on to the formal Lebanese school system.
A picture says more than a thousand words
Mohamad draws on his biggest passions, photography and film making, to tell the stories of his fellow refugee children in all their diversity. He teaches photography, and encourages children to take photos of their daily lives. Drawing on his earlier training and on his own experiences, Mohamad encourages them to express themselves and to process their trauma. “Children are hiding their stories inside,” he says. “It takes trust to get them out.” Living in the here and now can be a great help. The refugee children who Mohamad works with harbor painful memories of war, they miss family members, their friends and hobbies, and are afraid to start all over again. Mohamad creates opportunities for them to interact with other children from both Syria and Lebanon.
The International Children's Peace Prize 2017
KidsRights & Mohamad
Supported by the KidsRights Care and Study Fund, Mohamad’s education will be funded. KidsRights is proud to, with your help, empower Mohamad as a global changemaker the rights of refugee children.