Laughter could be heard across the yard of the Beitokom Community Center in Baalbeck, as Alaa raced to greet us. The 13-year-old and his family recently arrived from Damascus, having fled near-nightly bombardment, terror and immeasurable personal loss.
As part of Mercy Corps’ Moving Forward program, the coaches were starting to rally the kids to begin the day’s first game of “Stick Catch.” With funding from UNICEF, we’re using sports and other activities to help both Syrian refugees and kids from Lebanese host families cope with the upheaval around them.
Alaa eagerly described the game — his favorite — to us. He said he appreciated the challenge, explaining, “There’s no easy way to win in this one. You can’t take your hands apart at all, so you really have to pay attention.”
Alaa is a skilled competitor, and through the Moving Forward activities at Beitokom, he’s become close to some of the Syrian coaches and guides, and has made new friends, both Lebanese and Syrian. The program is designed help ease tension between the host families and the refugees who have joined their homes and communities, teaching the youngest how to overcome prejudice and recover from fear.
Alaa’s favorite teammate for Tug-of-War is his friend, Ahmad, because he says he can rely on him to hold onto the rope without slipping. These are the things that Alaa focuses on now, rather than the proximity of the blasts that have left his neighborhood in rubble, or which cousin he might have lost in the latest round of sniper fire.
“Here, I feel safe, away from the sounds of bombs, snipers and tanks. I am just playing here.”
How you can help
Children are often the most vulnerable in the face of war or disaster. Your gift to our Humanitarian Response Fund will help us reach more kids who are suffering through the Syrian conflict and other crises around the world. Donate today.