Half a million school-age refugee children in Lebanon are at risk of becoming a 'lost generation.' When they wake up in the morning, instead of packing up their books for school, many head for the streets to sell flowers, shine shoes, or beg.
With the crisis in Syria now in its sixth year, shrinking humanitarian assistance and dwindling savings have forced families to put their children to work. For children separated from their families, street work is their only source of income—some support siblings and even send money to relatives in Syria. Street work also exposes children to grave risks such as sexual violence and physical abuse. As one seven-year-old boy poignantly put it, “We have nobody to make us feel safe when we are begging.”
In an effort to reach refugee children on the streets, the IRC is providing 'safe havens' where they can take part in creative learning and therapeutic activities. IRC social workers build trust with the children through these activities, then work to connect them to education, health care and family services to help them recover from trauma and abuse.
Riham, an IRC social worker in Beirut, begins her weekly sessions with an activity beloved by boys and girls alike. Standing in a circle, the children pretend to hold a big flower in their hands, water it and, all together, place it in one corner of the room, where it will 'stand' for the duration of the play session.
“They need a routine,” explains Riham. “In Syria, daily life had a strong routine: Wake up, have breakfast, go to school, have lunch, play with their friends, go back home, have dinner, go to sleep. Their new life in the street is unpredictable, so they like to have something that has to be done always in the same way, in the same place, and at the same time, once a week.”
A half million school-age refugee children in Lebanon are at risk of becoming a “lost generation.”
The IRC has provided essential services to 57,555 people in Lebanon.
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