I traveled to Jordan and Lebanon in September for The Oregonian for a series of stories about Syrian refugees. I was there with my Oregonian colleague, Rich Read. You can see our coverage here: http://topics.oregonlive.com/tag/syrian-refugees/posts.html
Roqaya lost both parents and two siblings in a massacre in Homs. Three of Batool's cousins were killed by snipers. Julanar longs for the songbird that flew outside her bedroom window. She wants to go home to become an engineer or an architect so she can help rebuild her country. Noor wants to be a surgeon, because she says it seems like an important time to become something useful.
These Syrian girls, all in one ninth grade class at an overworked school in Mafraq, Jordan, are coming of age during war. It's a mortifying journey. Some live now as orphans, some in refugee camps, others in unfinished apartment buildings.
Besides the common bond of being a refugee the girls share something else and it's often the fuel that keeps them going. They want to go home to Syria and begin to rebuild their country.
Their school is a mess. Administrators at Al Robaych Bent Al Moawath school are running double shifts, teaching Jordanian kids in the mornings and Syrian kids in the afternoon; all with no additional resources. The burden has left the school short on everything from water to paper.
Suhair Hayek, one of the girls teachers, says she can hardly keep her tears inside her eyes when she thinks about the girls. Some she says, have lost their dreams, some cling to hope. Hayek says what the girls need is a chance to forget their suffering and enjoy their youth. "They escape from death,'' she says. Now, they need to search for life.
Rich Read and I met the girls at their school and have remained in contact with them through their teacher, Suhair Hayek. Some of them wanted to write a few words about they experiences and dreams. Hayek translated their writing and emailed them to us.