Hadi, 30, and his wife Latifa, 25, were in Idlib when the shelling started five years ago. They were among the first families to flee the deadly conflict and seek refuge beyond the Syrian borders.
The search for a place to stay in was quite a daunting mission. The family had to move constantly around Akkar, north Lebanon, to find some place to sleep and seek security. Harsh winter seasons and the lack of basic needs meant that they had to fight for their very survival.
Worried about increased scrutiny and restricted from free movement, Hadi was unable to find any job to provide for his kids. Debts piled on his shoulders and his children were always ill. His pregnant wife even lost her foetus.
In the Akkar village of Dawseh, Hadi and Latifa now live with their two girls Layla and Sana, in a substandard house that used to be a makeshift room when they first arrived. Through a Save the Children programme, they have been able to transform the shelter into a place where they are eligible to stay for the next year.
In their own words
“We left Syria with the onset of the crisis and came her to seek protection. It was me, my wife and our two girls. We had nothing- literally nothing.
Back in Syria, I used to work in farms, but I couldn’t find work here. There was one occasion when I worked as a concrete finisher for one month and got only half-paid. Movement is restricted and the area where we live is deprived. I only go to the shop to get food and come back. I can’t pay for what I buy. I ask people for patience whenever they remind me of what I owe them.
We have two girls, Layla is four-years-old and Sana is two. Layla goes to the nursery. She is starting to learn and speak. It’s our dream to see her grow up and learn.
Sana stays here all day long. Her toys are stones. She forgot what toys look like. She barely speaks.
This house you see was a makeshift room when we moved around three years ago. We built a room that was basically nothing like a place where humans would live. You can imagine the places we had to endure.
The room was infested with reptiles and rodents. You would see a snake slithering around or get a sting from a wasp. I took my wife to the hospital after she was once bitten by a centipede. I was worried about the kids. They would have insects hide in their clothes.
When a neighbour of our began a construction project near us, I pleaded with him to help me build something that shelters my kids. He helped me erect two walls and a roof. The ceiling, however, was too fragile that it collapsed shortly after and caused my wife to abort. We had to bear these conditions for over a year.
When winter came, we were completely exposed to rains and storms. Plastic sheets and bags didn’t help. It was impossible to stay like that any longer.
I went to Save the Children office and sought help. Thankfully, their response was instant.
Rehabilitation works, including shelter and water and sanitation components, have been completed. The floor was laid and doors and windows constructed. We now have two rooms, a small kitchen and a bathroom. It surely feels safer. We have also been exempted from rent for a year. Things have improved by 90 per cent. I am grateful for that.
But going back home is something that we still look forward to. We want this struggle to end. Every night we pray for a better tomorrow. But days come and go without any change or improvement.”