Lebanon Update: Life in a Rusty Old Van
14 September 2016
I met Fatuma, 84, when she was living in a rusty old van in North Bekaa, Lebanon. She had fled Syria with her children and grandchildren three years earlier.
Her family had rented a small garage with a room next to it, where her sons were living with their wives and children in very cramped quarters, but Fatuma couldn’t stay in the same crowded rooms with them. “There’s a lot of children noise in there,” said her eldest son.
A neighbour gave them an old van which became Fatuma’s new home. The van was fixed to the ground with stones. In the corner was Fatuma’s bed—an old mattress and a well-worn blanket.
In May, a Medair team drove nearly 100 km to North Bekaa to assess Fatuma’s situation. “Last night when she wanted to go to the toilet, she lost her way, and instead she ended up sitting on the street,” said her daughter-in-law. “My husband found her in the morning and took her back to the van.”
Eight days later, I joined the Medair team on a trip to provide Fatuma with relief. I met Fatuma sitting on the ground with her daughter-in-law, preparing food. “You won’t have to sleep in the rusty van anymore,” we told her. “Instead, you will have a clean tent with a bed and mattress.”
Fatuma responded with gratitude. “Sit in the shade next to me, it’s too sunny outside. May God give you health and happiness, may he provide you with all you ever wished for.”
The team got to work, providing a full shelter kit to Fatuma and making the area easier to navigate. We installed handrails in the ground from the door of the tent all the way to the toilet. The team also removed concrete blocks from the toilet entrance, which made access easier for Fatuma .
The Medair team assembles new shelter for Fatuma.
While the shelter was being assembled, Fatuma was very happy, thanking everyone the whole time, and giving her preference on where the door should be. “If God gives me the chance to sleep in the tent, I’ll be happy,” she said. “It will be better than the van, much better.”
By the next day, the shelter was ready for Fatuma to move in. “We never thought we would receive aid from anyone,” said Fatuma’s son. “Many people had said they were willing to help, but no one did. Even when Medair visited us the first time, we didn’t believe you would really do what you have done today!”
- by Hiba Fares, Medair Communications Officer
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Medair’s work in Lebanon is supported by European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Lakärmissionen (SE), Swiss Solidarity, Global Affairs Canada, and generous private donors.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.