On the 1st of August, ten refugee and orphan children from some of the most impoverished parts of Lebanon made their way to South Africa, after being sponsored by donors and through the support of Africa Muslims Agency (AMA).
For many of the children, the trip was their first time boarding a flight. Some of the children have been displaced from their homes in Syria and Palestine, leaving behind all of their belongings and their familiar surroundings.
After settling in Lebanon in refugee camps, these children were forced to face difficult conditions, from lack of access to education, to minimal medical care and proper housing.
As the Lebanese economy has spiralled into economic crisis over the last few years and the country has fallen into times of political unrest, those living in refugee camps were hit twice as hard, with the vast majority unable to afford everyday essentials and had limited access to vital services.
However, with the support of AMA and donations received, some children have been given a new chance at life.
The ten children, all under the age of 18, have been enrolled at the Aman School of Excellence in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where they have access to proper facilities, and have a sense of normality in their lives again.
After a lengthy process of obtaining documentation, passports and Visas for the children with the help of AMA, they have touched down in South Africa this month, where they will be touring around the country and sharing their experiences with others.
Imraan Choonara, CEO of AMA emphasised the need for access to education in the country, particularly after meeting some of the country’s most vulnerable children in Lebanon’s refugee camps.
“The immense trauma that children face in the process of re-locating from war-torn countries is huge and sets them back majorly. We have to help them as much as possible see the normality of the world, because they are put through a situation that’s abnormal,” he explained.
“These children have been through situations that no child should have to experience, so the quicker we get them into an education facility, to get them to feel some sense of normality and routine, the safer and more secure they will feel,” he adds.
Fatima Kaisi, a project co-ordinator at AMA says that the team have been working for months to bring the children to South Africa, and have faced many challenges along the way.
“The children did not have any official papers, so we were forced to look for any documentation they had, and send papers back and forth from Syria and Lebanon. This posed some legal challenges and required visits to court.
We also needed to work with their parents to ensure all safeguarding issues were taken care of,” she said.
According to Kaisi, there were even fears up until the last minute that the children would not be able to travel.
Despite the lengthy flight from Lebanon to South Africa, the children are all hopeful and excited to tour around the country and tell their stories.