“Learning a new skill means a lot, it [gives] me hope,” says 35-year-old Nabila, mother of four, and a graduate of the hairdressing and make-up skills training program at JRS’s Social Centre in Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon.
Nabila, her husband, and children arrived in Lebanon in 2014. Upon arrival, they faced challenges such as renting a house, finding a job, and communicating with the people around them. It was especially difficult to gain access to health care.
When her 18-month-old son became ill, Nabila was able to get a small donation, enough to check the boy into a hospital. But after a week, he went into a coma and the money from the donation ran out. Her son was discharged and passed away in their home two days later, reopening a wound for Nabila and her husband as they had lost another child in Syria. They knew this pain too well.
The stress of their experiences started to strain the marriage between Nabila and her husband. They also have a daughter with a medical condition which requires special attention, and her husband has a neurological disorder which makes him prone to partial seizures. He became abusive and eventually left Nabila and the children.
At 11-years-old, Nabila’s eldest son stopped attending school so he could work to help support his mother and siblings. “My children [are] very smart.” Nabila says.
She wanted them to have the opportunity to continue expanding their knowledge and studies, so she registered them at the local JRS social center. Upon arrival, she was surprised and excited to learn that, beyond educational opportunities for her children, the social center had programs where she could learn new skills as well.
“The courses gave me self-confidence,” she reveals “[and] a hope that my life still has meaning after all we have been through.”
Nabila also credits the social center with helping her through times of mental distress. By mastering new skills and establishing a source of income to support her children, Nabila was able to reignite her sense of purpose.
“I felt I had a goal to achieve.” She adds, explaining that her new skills bring her a sense of comfort and calm knowing that she is able to provide for her kids.
In addition to skills training, Nabila also speaks to the sense of community at the social center.
“I feel like I’m at home.”
Nabila recommends the social center to anyone who is feeling a sense of distress or is new to Lebanon. In the future, she hopes to travel with her children so they can continue to learn and enrich their understanding of the world around them.