In Lebanon, decades of economic instability and an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Syria have taken their toll on the population.
When resources are strained to breaking point and opportunities are scarce, even working families can struggle to survive. How then must it be for a widow and her orphaned child when the main breadwinner is gone?
Muslim Hands supports over 500 orphans in Lebanon. Thanks to our donors, children like nine-year-old Ahmad Saad Eddin Sheikh Ammar receive the support they need to access everyday basics like food and clothing as well as the education that will enable them to build a better future for themselves.
Ahmad lives with his mother in a close-knit community in the city of Saida, South Lebanon. Since his father died of lung cancer in 2013, Ahmad, his mother and his older sister who is handicapped, have been relying on small contributions from his uncle and charitable donations to survive.
Thanks to a Muslim Hands sponsor, Ahmad’s mother can afford to send him to the local school. She wakes him at 7am. Sleepily, he gets ready for the day ahead.
The school bus arrives at 7.30am prompt and the Muslim Hands cameraman finds himself having to run to keep up with Ahmad who is keen to catch it.
Ahmad is one of fifty orphans at his school. Ihsan Ataya, the school's principal, explains to us why education is key for an orphan’s welfare:
‘It’s the key to getting a good job, keeping their dignity and making them a better person. Education is securing needs for when they grow up. And an orphan who has been helped will help another orphan’.
Ahmad is popular among his classmates. His mother said he struggled with his confidence when his father died, but with the support of his orphan care worker, Nadia, he is making great progress.
Teachers in the school are briefed about each individual student’s situation so they can avoid sensitive topics in lessons.
When Ahmad gets home he has dinner before settling down to his homework. He's rushing to finish so he can play outside on the bike his father gave him.
The bond between mother and son is unmistakable. She caresses his neck as she speaks to us and patiently guides him through his reading. Her pain at losing her husband is evident, but she puts on a brave face for Ahmad's sake.
Despite what little the family have, we are treated with typical Lebanese hospitality. Juice and snacks are placed on tables in front of us in spite of our insistence that it isn't necessary.
Meanwhile, Muslim Hands' orphan care worker Nadia is making coffee in the kitchen for the neighbours and family members that are drifting in and out of the house. Like all our orphan workers across the world, Nadia is there to provide one to one support for Ahmad and his mother and as she greets the arriving guests warmly (and on a first-name basis) it’s obvious that she is like one of the family.
Ahmad has finished his homework and is ready to play outside now which is our signal to leave. His mother thanks us for coming and as we make our way back through the narrow streets the gentleness and affection with which she stroked her son’s neck is an image that keeps recurring in my mind.
Every parent wants the best for their child, but what do you do when you can’t provide it for them? It is so important that we show our support for orphans like Ahmad. After all, if that was my son I would hope that someone kind would reach out and show him they care.
By Tijen Horoz, Senior Communications Editor
You can sponsor an orphan like Ahmad for just £29.50 a month.