Refugee children dream of becoming architects so they can rebuild Syria

"All of us will be smiling. That's what I want One Day""All of us will be smiling. That's what I want One Day". Photo: ICMC/ R. Baydoun Mafraq, 14 June 2017 - The inevitable bickering starts amongst her family when Loulia*, 9, and her 7-year-old sister Lamar* begin playing with their fidget spinners – one of the most loved toys among children across the world. Loulia’s toy was spinning on her finger in no time, while Lamar just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. Meanwhile, in the back room, Teta (Grandma) is spinning circles around both of her grandchildren.

Loulia and her family live in a modest house in Irbid, in the north of Jordan. Spirits in the household are beginning to lift after a painful morning at the hospital with Loulia, who has cancer. As the family sits down to lunch, their father confirms things have returned to normal when 1-year-old Sara* begins to cry after an unsuccessful attempt to grab the spinner from her older sister.

The family fled from their home in Homs four years ago. Loulia’s older brother, Anwer*, says their lives in Syria were very different to what they are now. “I remember our house, our neighborhood … Our house was beautiful; life was so beautiful.”

Anwer has a piercing gaze but is softly spoken. He explains how he tries to see the best of things, including with his sister’s illness, but he gets lonely as all his friends are back in Syria. “I miss them,” he says, which triggers tears from his oldest sister, Zeina*, 13. Zeina adds, “I had my cousin with me in school. His name was Naif*. We were close, me and him. He used to hang out with me and my friends.”

Amongst the siblings, there is clearly a sense of yearning, of missing the home they loved. But something else is there too. When asked what they want to be one day, Anwer quickly answers that he wants to be an architect so that he can return to rebuild Syria. His sisters are quick to agree with him, and you can feel the defiance and strength of this family.

Suddenly, baby Sara crashes back into the room with the fidget spinner. The tears are wiped away and the energy is restored. As if by magic, balloons appear and laughter echoes through the house again, though Loulia remains more reserved than her younger siblings. When by herself, later, she tells of her own ambitions for the future: “All of us will be smiling, nobody will be sad. There will be no more tears from my father’s eye, no tears from grandfather’s eye - no tears from any of us. That’s what I want One Day.”


Watch Loulia's story.

*All names in this story have been changed to protect the identity of the benificiaries. The pseudonyms have been chosen by the benificiaries themselves.