“You Have Wide Hands.”
“We are living.”
That’s how Abdal describes life in Lebanon as Palestinian refugees from Syria for his wife, Friyal, and their three children.
In Syria, Abdal worked in construction, operating heavy equipment. Now? “I do nothing. I can’t work here. Half of my life is destroyed without work.”
Abdal’s story is repeated throughout Lebanon by Syrian refugees, especially men. With an unemployment rate of over 25 percent, the Lebanese government doesn’t want refugees taking jobs from its citizens.
Some do work, taking illegal jobs to earn a bit of income—usually at much less than locals are paid. And if they are caught, they can be sent back to Syria. Abdal doesn’t want to risk it by looking for a job.
“It is hard not to have work,” says the 48 year-old. “I’ve gone four years without work. I feel older than I am—I feel like I am 70.”
The family, which didn’t want to be photographed, is luckier than most; they are staying rent-free in a room owned by a relative. Most don’t have that good fortune, and need to pay ever-increasing rents.
Many in Abdal’s neighbourhood live in make-shift corrugated metal shelters, plunked down wherever they could find some space.
Even with no rent payments, life is hard. The monthly food vouchers make a difference.
“Without them we wouldn’t have anything to eat,” he says of the vouchers, part of a $1.9 million project supported financially by Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the Government of Canada. The project is implemented through Foodgrains Bank member Mennonite Central Committee and its local partner, the Popular Aid for Relief and Development (PARD).
What does he hope for the future? “There is no future for us until the war stops,” he says. “When it stops we will go back home to Syria.”
As Canadian visitors prepare to leave, he offers a message for those who donate to provide the food vouchers.
“Thank-you for making this happen,” he says. “You have wide hands. Thank-you for not forgetting us.”
Since 2012 the Foodgrains Bank has provided over $29 million of assistance for people affected by the war in Syria. Click here to make a donation to our Syria appeal.