Sami's story: ‘I just need a chance’

Syria, Turkey

March 4, 2016

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Sami doesn’t want to be forgotten.

As a teenager growing up in Syria, 15-year-old Sami worked every day to achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. He was a good student, pushed hard by his dad to study constantly. But when war broke out, Sami’s dream ended in the flash of a bomb. With his school flattened and his home destroyed, Sami’s family had no choice but to flee their home in Aleppo.

Now living as a refugee in Turkey, Sami is no longer planning for a future—he’s worried about losing the chance.

“It’s hard to imagine what I’ll be in the future,” Sami says. “I try to imagine that if I grew older and passed away, what impressions would I leave? How would people remember me? If they didn’t remember anything about me except being a person who spent his life having fun … that’s not good enough.”

When he thinks about life back in Syria, Sami pictures the morning sun streaming through his bedroom window. He imagines his family, already awake and waiting for him. It’s a memory Sami knows well—a picture of home he keeps with him in Turkey. He dreams of it because he has to: It’s the only way he can see a happy family again.

“It’s so hard to find this here anymore,” he says.

Sami used to fall asleep to the voices of his family downstairs. But now he’s kept awake by the memory of people he’s seen dying in war. One friend’s father was just killed back in Syria. Another friend was badly beaten while living as a refugee in Turkey.

It’s hard to watch what’s happened to his friends, he says, but even harder to see how it changed them.

“I know a number of people who were hurt, and they tried to cover this by hurting others,” he says. “They tried to act as if they were stronger than the situation, but this turned them into hideous people and didn’t make them better or stronger.”

Sami sees the world differently. At a Mercy Corps youth center in Gaziantep, Sami is able to keep his eye toward the future while being part of a community again. More than anything, he wants to return to Syria so he can go to medical school and achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. Not just for himself, or even for his father: he wants to do it so he can help his country heal the wounds of war.

“I am working to develop myself now so I can be someone important and notable in the future,” he says. “Someone that people would remember after 100 years.”

For now, that dream has been put on hold by a life in limbo. Sami knows there’s no point in returning to Syria until the war is over—there’s nothing he can do right now and nowhere he could live.

But waiting hasn’t shaken his resolve. Because when Sami pictures Syria, he doesn’t just see the things he left behind. He sees what’s still to come.

“I can see my future,” he says. “I just need a chance; an opportunity. I don’t just want to sit and watch TV. I want to do something and be remembered.”

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