“They care about me, listen to me, and are by my side during this difficult time”

By Wafa Dakwar, Medical Aid for Palestinians' (MAP’s) Senior Programme Officer in Lebanon

The twin threats of Lebanon’s economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic are hurting marginalised and vulnerable communities worst of all, including Palestinian refugees across the country. I recently met with 13-year-old Palestinian refugee Farah to discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on her life, and how the support she has been receiving through MAP’s ‘Adolescents Health and Life Skills Education’ programme, run in partnership with local NGO Association Najdeh, is helping her cope with these new challenges.

Hi Farah, can you tell me a little about yourself?

“Hi, my name is Farah* and I am 13 years old. I have five siblings and we live with my parents in Burj el Barajneh camp in Beirut. My hobbies are drawing and swimming.”

What activities did you like to participate in at Najdeh’s centre before the pandemic?

“I participated in many activities at Najdeh’s centre, which I like to call “the friendship centre”. These included sports, working on projects with my friends, yoga, dance, theater, going on trips outside the camp and games that promoted gender equality. I also took part in awareness sessions with the social worker and psychologist on topics such as bullying and anger management.”

What do you know about COVID-19?

“I know that the coronavirus disease is infectious, and it affects the respiratory system. It is transmitted through the mouth, nose, and eyes. It has symptoms similar to the flu, and is particularly dangerous for people who have weak immune systems and those who are older.”

How has COVID-19 impacted your life?

“COVID-19 had a big impact on my life both in a positive and a negative way. The negative effect is that I am no longer able to go to school or outside my home as much as I used to, which makes me feel stressed, sad, and scared sometimes.

“I am no longer able to go to Najdeh’s centre and participate in the activities. This makes me very sad because it used to help me release my energy and express my feelings.

“The positive effects were that, despite having to stay at home almost all the time, I continued to do activities with Najdeh online. I am also helping my mother with the housework more often and spending more quality time with my family.”

How has this change made you feel?

“I feel stressed out, pressured, and sad. But there is also a beautiful thing that gives me hope and joy which is being able to communicate over the phone on daily basis with the group that I used to attend the centre with. We do the activities online and can talk with the centre’s staff including the social worker and psychologist whenever we want, to help us feel relaxed and safe.”

How is Najdeh’s centre supporting you?

“The centre helped me a lot; it gave me strength and confidence, and reduced my stress, anxiety, and boredom through the online activities with the social worker and the psychologist. It allowed me to communicate with my friends through video calls. I feel very happy and I laugh from my heart when I see them and we do activities together through video calls. The support from the centre’s staff made feel that they care about me, listen to me, and are by my side through this difficult time.”

What are your hopes for the future?

“I hope that everyone I know and those who I don’t know stay safe and healthy. I wish this virus disappears and things go back to normal and that I can go to the centre and to school because I miss my friends and all the centre’s staff. Thank you for caring.”

Thank you for caring Farah, and for speaking to me today

Please donate today, to help MAP continue supporting young Palestinian refugees like Farah amid the coronavirus pandemic:

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* Name changed to protect identity

 

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