by Lauren Fisher, World Vision USA
“Somehow he knows when it’s his bath time. He looks at me, laughs and waits in excitement,” Syrian refugee and mother Shawwaga said.
It wasn’t the statistics – they’re just too big. It wasn’t the news stories showing crowded refugee camps – they seem too far away. No, it took stronger stuff to pull me from my cocoon. It took a bath and some chubby baby arms. There went my walls. Some of which I didn’t even realize I had put up.
Six months ago, my son Jack was born and my world changed forever – sometimes my heart became too tender to bear. My heart is already in pieces after kissing Jack bye-bye before I start work each day. I work at an aid organization, surrounded by stories of people around the world facing difficult circumstances. How could there be anything left to give to a child so far away with such big problems when mine is right in front of me with immediate needs?
6-month-old Abd and his mother Shawwaga turned that on its head. Sure, the names are unfamiliar, their home a world away in Lebanon where the two are living in a tent as refugees. Yet here is a mother who gave birth to her son in August too. He loves his bath just like Jack. You can see the same fierce love in her eyes, the same way she struggles to put uncooperative octopus arms into a onesie.
Shawwaga’s family fled the violence in Syria almost four years ago. Like most families I’ve met or spoken with, they went from a solid middle class life most of us would recognize – ahome with a mortgage, a car, jobs — to struggling with basics. How to bathe their tiny little guy? How to keep him warm on the freezing winter nights with only plastic sheeting as their new home?
Four years ago those questions would have been just as unthinkable to Shawwaga as they are to us. Their lives changed dramatically.
The Syria crisis enters its fifth year on March 15th. Four years of displacement, fear, sudden poverty and constant uncertainty. There are now more than 6 million children displaced from their homes in the crisis. Countless mothers are struggling to be the best moms they can be, just like us, but under infinitely more challenging circumstances.
Tonight as I give Jack his bath, kiss his chubby arms and wrestle him into his onesie, I’ll think of Shawwaga doing the same and find another piece of my heart to give away.
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World Vision is assisting families like Abd’s by constructing water tanks, showers and latrines and providing food vouchers. For more information go www.worldvision.org.
Photos: Jack and Lauren | 13 year old Syrian girl with her younger brother, Nicholas Ralph/World Vision