Rising above adversity: Jana’s journey from war to a brighter future

In the Burj al-Shemali Palestinian refugee camp in Tyre, south Lebanon, lives 19-year-old Jana*. Jana has been on a journey from devastation to hope which reflects her incredible steadfastness and the transformative power of a peer education project, supported by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), that has instilled positive change in her life.

Jana, a Palestinian refugee, was born in Syria. The horrors of the war there left a permanent mark on her childhood. A bomb struck her family’s residence in Khan Eshieh refugee camp and, although Jana and her family survived, they decided to seek refuge in Burj al-Shemali refugee camp in Lebanon. 

Arriving in Lebanon at the age of nine, Jana faced the challenges of adapting to a new environment and a different education system. She also faced the additional barriers of being a Palestinian refugee, with restricted access to health and education, and limited safe and free spaces to grow and socialise. 

Having studied mostly in Arabic in Syria, Jana was looked down on by the other students in her class as being less proficient in English. “I didn’t accept this judgement and I wanted to prove them wrong,” said Jana. Despite the initial hurdles she faced, Jana rose to the top of her class, determined to excel and prove her potential. 

MAP’s partner, Beit Atfal Assomoud, who run a peer education project, played a pivotal role in Jana’s future. The project offers young Palestinian refugees, who have very limited opportunities to learn and socialise in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon, a space to share their thoughts and experiences, practice critical thinking and have access to essential health information. Here, Jana found solace in English language tutoring sessions provided by native speakers. This ignited her passion for learning.  

“I remained in this programme for four years,” explained Jana. “At the age of 12, I wanted to participate in peer education sessions.” Guided by dedicated social workers Hamza and Mariam, Jana embraced the role of a peer educator. Standing before her peers, she discovered her voice, learned to lead discussions, and realised her potential to bring about positive change. 

Volunteering as a peer educator has provided new opportunities for Jana. “I love giving sessions and that I have become a reference for other educators who ask for my opinion and ideas,” she said. Through this project, Jana has learnt to embrace her own identity and self-worth. “I mostly like to give sessions about self-esteem. I was someone who did not have confidence and suffered from insecurities. Then the way I viewed myself changed and I realised how important it is to love and appreciate yourself more.” 

The ripple effects of the project extend beyond Jana. “The project is helping other young people learn new things, develop their characters and avoid negative feelings,” she said. Jana’s hope is that the project continues to flourish, creating a space where voices like hers can be heard and celebrated.  

Jana’s story is a testament to her steadfastness and the work of Beit Atfal Assomoud. Through their peer education project, lives like Jana’s are being reshaped and hopes are being rekindled.  

You can support this project and MAP’s support for young Palestinian refugees by making a donation today. 


*Name changed to protect the identity of the person involved.

Photo: Jana facilitating a peer educator session.

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