First Person

With paper and pen, capturing a refugee’s reality

Posted by

Oxfam’s Jane Beesley is in northern Lebanon documenting the stories of Syrian refugees. She recently profiled Reema (not her real name), a 12-year-old refugee, in a blog post titled The girl whose face you’ll never see (concerned about her safety should she return to Syria, Reema asked that her face not be photographed). A bright student, Reema spoke candidly about the loss of her school, which was destroyed in the conflict. Below is Beesley’s latest update.

Reema holds the notebook with one of her poems. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam
Reema holds the notebook with one of her poems. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

A couple of weeks ago I met Reema. When we left, we gave her with a notebook, pencils, and pens.

At the cash-for-rent distribution I saw her mother, who told me Reema had drawn a picture of me. We went back and found that she had also written two poems. The translations below are “rough” as the poems are written in an Arabic that is likened to Shakespearean English. I hope to go back with a new notebook so I can borrow the one she’s been writing in to photocopy the original Arabic.

Reema is writing more poems. She says she is better at that than drawing. She is happy for us to share her poems and was really pleased that so many people, around the world, knew her through the blog.

Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam
Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Here are the rough translations:

Poem 1
Our hearts love you
How your children love you
How the memory would forget you
We will be back soon, to remove the tears on your cheeks
We will return one day to our mothers to kiss the soil and the flowers
Lovely Syria, we will be back soon.

Poem 2
When I take my pencil and notebook what will I write about?
About my school or my house
I am deprived from living in my house and school
My school, when will I visit you again
To take my bag and run to you
Destruction has replaced you and taken the place of your ringing bells
and without the students

My house, my flowers, I miss you
My Syria, when will I return back to you?

I have dreams that I can’t achieve and make come true
And all I want is living with you in freedom
Syria, my country, I love you.


Reema’s family are among the 50,000 refugees displaced by the crises in Syria who are receiving cash transfers from Oxfam to help pay rent; the transfers are worth $150 per household per month for two months. Up to 150,000 people will also be receiving vouchers for food and hygiene items.

Learn more about how Oxfam is helping Syrian refugees and donate now to support these efforts. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+