For our “Bags and Belongings” series, Refugees Deeply earlier this year asked Syrians scattered around the globe what they packed in their bags and what they left behind when they fled. In this next part of the series, we spoke to people displaced from other troubled parts of the globe – from Myanmar to Gambia – about their prized possessions and how the meaning of home has changed for them since they fled.
In this interview, 7-year-old Shahed Orbani speaks to Preethi Nallu in Taalabaya, Lebanon, where her family relocated from Homs in Syria after war broke out. While many of her fellow refugee children work on the streets of Lebanon to support their families, Shahed was among those lucky enough to be able to resume her education in exile.
Shahed was only 5 years old when she moved away from Syria.
Now she feels at home in Taalabaya, Lebanon, where her family relocated from Homs. She was able to resume her studies at a public school under Lebanon’s second shift system, which opened up classrooms to refugees in the afternoons.
“I [go to] sleep late but I also wake up at 10 because I start school during the second shift. But it is sometimes difficult to focus on homework late in the evenings,” she said.
“I spend a lot of time studying French because I like it. I find sciences difficult. I hope I can finish my studies at this school and return to teach French there.”
Her teachers say that Syrian children around her age assimilate particularly well. “I am very excited about grade 3 next year. In the summer I will learn horse-riding,” Shahed said. “My father and brothers would ride horses when I was a baby. They were part of a horse-riding club when we lived in Syria.”
“I will practice my arithmetic and French over the summer months so I can be prepared for the coming year.”
Shahed does not remember much about her hometown, other than her family’s description of her neighborhood in Homs as a “beautiful, green” place with a flowing river, a citadel and a large souk, or market, that they would visit often.
But she does remember having a garden and a dog. While she had to leave them behind, she brought with her to Lebanon small items like crayons, a coloring book and her favorite doll.
“In addition to school, I love art and being in photos,” Shahed said. “I like expressing myself through drawings.”
This story is featured in the “Shadow to Light” installation at San Francisco Design Week through a partnership between Airbnb Design and News Deeply.