3/3 “I always wanted to learn how to play basketball so I googled: How to play basketball? in Arabic. I only got English search results so that is when I realized I needed to learn English. Since I only had an education until the age of 9, a lot of basic things like reading and writing or knowing how to use a computer is really difficult for me. I found out about free classes at the Migrant CommunityCentre in Beirut. I took English and Computer classes and I met a lot of people from different backgrounds. One day I met a volunteer. She was a therapist and I told her my story. She offered me free therapy sessions. For three months straight I would see her every week and I would talk to her about my past. She helped me a lot. All my life I was raised to believe that I was a ‘’nobody’’. It will take a long time before I can feel that I am ’‘somebody”. I don’t need to be better or smarter than other people, I just want to feel that I am equal to others. Learning English has given me a lot of confidence. I have found a nice place to live and I made a lot of friends her at the Migrant Centre. I know that my life will improve, all I got to do is keep on educating myself’’
(Beirut, Lebanon)

2/3 ”My friend told me that my youngest brother got murdered. He got into trouble with a group of criminals in Aleppo and they killed him. I immediately packed my stuff and I went back to Aleppo for the funeral. The next day, after the funeral my father and grandfather came up to me. They told me that I needed to take revenge on the men who killed my little brother. They had already arranged a gun for me. As much as I was hurt, there was no way I was going to kill anyone. I told them: ‘’If I do it, there is no difference between me and the criminals who killed my brother.’’ That night I left Aleppo and I decided to never come back. I got back to Damascus and someone had broken into my room and stolen all my money and clothes. I have never felt so lonely in my entire life. I couldn’t ask anyone for help. I went back to work and tried to survive and rebuild my financial situation. In 2011 the war started and the situation in Damascus became unstable. A few years later I got drafted in by the Army. Again I didn’t want to fight so I postponed my service and left Syria. I came to Lebanon and the first thing I did was trying to find a job. Once I found work I was tried to find shelter. I went to the UN office because someone told me that Syrians could apply for refugee status which can give you benefits. When I arrived at the UN office there was a huge line and people were treated horribly. I realized that it would take days for me to receive some sort of help. I didn’t want to risk losing my new job as a tailor. So even though I fled my country, officially I am not a refugee.”

1/3. ”Until this day I still don’t know why she left. I was three years old when it happened. She took my little sister with her and left me and my two brothers with my father. I was nine when my dad remarried. My dad’s new wife would hit and punish us a lot. She never wanted us so my dad ended up putting the three of us in an orphanage. The first night in the orphanage was horrible. The supervisor would yell at us if we cried. I was separated from my brothers. I shared a room with a lot of kids and we were all scared. At night they would turn off all the lights. Until this day, I don’t like to sleep in the dark. Every day in the orphanage I would cry and I would barely eat out of stress. After six months I could not take it anymore and I walked away. When my dad found out that I escaped he was furious. He took the three of us out of the orphanage. He rented a room in Aleppo nearby where he lived and that became our new home. He took us out of school and he said that from now on we needed to work and make money. We started working as tailors. The money we would earn we needed to give to our father. At the age of fourteen, I decided that I wanted to be far away from my family so I moved to Damascus. I found a place to live and I worked there as a tailor. One day I received a phone call. It was one of my friends from Aleppo. He said: ‘’I only have a few minutes to talk but I have some bad news. You have to come home right away..”

“I am lucky because unlike many Palestinians I have a Lebanese passport. My grandparents are Palestinians from Haifa who fled to Syria. That is why I lived most of my life in Yarmouk, a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria. I left a few years ago because of the war. My mum is Lebanese it was quite easy for us to move to Beirut. Life here is also difficult but we feel blessed because we are safe. My dad had trouble finding work so I am doing my best to support my family financially. Sometimes I feel really bad for everyone in the camp. A few weeks ago I raised money to buy food and supplies for the people in Yarmouk. I just came back from my trip to Syria. I feel responsible for everyone left behind. I just wish there was more I could do but at the same time I know that I have to start building my own life.. Welcome to life in the Middle-East.”
(Beirut, Lebanon

“I was born during the Civil War here in Lebanon. I remember spending most of my early childhood underground in shelters, hiding from the bombs. Being outdoors was always considered a dangerous thing. When I was 21, a friend invited me to hike in the mountains. It is hard to explain but coming from war, the feeling of being in the mountains gives me such a sense of freedom. When the 2006 war started, I was 22. I could not handle the stress so I left Beirut and I went to the only place where I felt safe: the mountains. As the years went by I started to climb more and higher mountains. Physically I am not the strongest or the fastest mountaineer but it has always been my passion that has given me strength. In a few days I’ll be flying to Antarctica to climb Mount Vinson. People have told me that I should get married and have children instead. I had to break a lot of walls to get where I am today. I have climbed 26 mountains and I am the first person in my whole family to get their PHD. I want to show that it is possible, as a Lebanese woman to climb each of the seven summits. Some have called it rebellious, I call it following my heart.”
(Beirut, Lebanon)

“For a long time I thought that I was unhappy because I was living in Lebanon. I have left Beirut many times. I travelled a lot, mostly to South America and I discovered a spiritual side to myself. Every time I came back to Beirut, I thought of it as a place with negative energy. Maybe it has something to do with the war and everything we went through here but last summer that changed. I went to Amsterdam to get my NLP practitioner certification. NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. learning NLP is like learning the language of your own mind. I learned so much from that experience and also from the Dutch culture. Amsterdam was an eye-opening-experience. It is a city with so many different people with different ideas and ideologies but they all co-exist. It made me realize that it is not Beirut that is the problem, it was me. I was keeping myself from being happy. All I gotta do is just live my life, be myself and the rest of the world will catch up. Eventually.”
(Beirut, Lebanon)