Lebanon: "We're trying to rebuild our lives together"


Three years ago, sixty-one-year-old Hamida lost her left leg and had her right leg fractured in an air strike in Syria. Her daughter-in-law Souheir was seriously injured in the same attack and several of her grandchildren were left completely traumatized. Following this tragedy, Hamida and her relatives fled to Lebanon, where they benefit from psychosocial support sessions run by Handicap International, with support from Light for the World. 

“I was coming back from the market with my children and my mother-in-law came out of the house to help me with the bags," explains Souheir.  "That’s when we were hit by a bomb.” Seated in the family’s modest shelter in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, Souheir describes how the attack changed their lives forever. “My mother-in-law can’t walk anymore, my daughter Roqaya doesn’t want to speak and my son Obeida can’t sleep. He still has shrapnel buried in his stomach and he’s only got one kidney left.” Fortunately, the family was discovered by one of Handicap International's mobile teams, made up of a physical therapist and a social worker, who began visiting the family and providing support.

Today, the two specialists, Maram and Abeer, are visiting the family for a new psychosocial support session. As Maram chats with Hamida and Souheir about their lives in Lebanon, Abeer plays puppets with the children. Roqaya watches shyly as her brothers and sisters play with the Handicap International worker. She hides behind her mother, torn between her fear of interacting with others and her desire to join in. “She’s really stressed, but every day we encourage her to say a few more words than the day before,” explains her father, Abdel Razzaq.

During the session, Roqaya finally plucks up the courage to gently cuddle up to Abeer. “During the first session, she hid when she saw us. She didn’t want to come near us,” the specialist explains. “Over time, we have managed to win her trust. It always takes a few minutes when we arrive in the tent, but then she generally plays with us and sometimes even answers our questions.” Abeer suggests different activities to Roqaya and her brothers and sisters, to help them express their feelings.

Maram then calls Obeida to talk with her, one-to-one. She wants to find out if there has been any change in his incontinence problem. Using a system of drawings, she tries to understand how the little boy feels. That gives Abeer the chance to spend time with Roqaya alone.

Running a psychosocial support session for four family members at the same time is not easy for the mobile team, but the two women understand how much it means to them. “We’re trying to rebuild our lives together,” explains Souheir, cradling her newborn and watching her children talk and play with Abeer and Maram.

Hamida also watches the rest of her family, moved by the scene. The path to rebuilding their lives will be long, but the professionals from Handicap International are hopeful. “The children have already made a lot of progress,” says Maram. “For Souheir and Hamida, their wounds go deeper. It will take time, but we’ll be here, by their side, for as long as it takes them to recover and move forward.”