Syrian Refugee Asmaa: I had to Leave Everything Behind
Adverse weather conditions have left many families in Egypt cold and wet this winter, including Syrian refugees who have fled conflict and relocated in the country. Plan international Egypt has provided more than 400 of the most vulnerable affected families with items for the cold season, including quilts and blankets. Among them is 37-year-old Asmaa, who, along with her son, Khaled, 8, escaped the civil war in Syria to start a new life in Egypt.
I had a happy life with my son and husband. We had a big house and my son had enough space to play with his friends.
But when the civil war erupted in Syria, we had to move to Aleppo as it was no longer safe for us. My son, Khaled couldn’t understand what was going on and why we were fleeing. I’ll never forget how sad he was when we left our house.
We stayed for a while in Aleppo, but had to flee again as bombs began showering the city. My husband was arrested and I haven’t seen him since.
I had a choice: stay in Syria or flee the country. I was under the pressure of time as with each day, my son and I were exposed to more and more dangers. I made a decision that I would not wish on anyone: I left Syria – left behind my family, friends, history and everything I cherished.
Moving to Egypt
I sold all my possessions and travelled to Egypt with Khaled. I’ve been staying in the coastal city of Alexandria since I arrived.
The early months were really hard. I knew no-one and struggled to get by. It felt like I was fighting alone for survival. But the situation began to change when I got involved in a project run by Plan International Egypt.
My son and I have been taking part in all kinds of activities, like recreational trips, emotional support sessions and more. I was so happy to see Khaled mingling with other children. After what we’d been through, he had become increasingly introvert and was in need of support.
Moreover, I’ve also had a chance to meet and become friends with many Syrian and Egyptian women. I no longer feel lonely.
This year, the winter has been especially cold and I couldn’t afford to buy any items to keep us warm. The situation was made all the worse because of the heavy rain and flooding Alexandria experienced in December. The rain made the ceiling of the flat where I’m staying leak and we were all shivering from the cold.
During one of our focus group discussions, other women and I talked about this issue and we were so happy that each of the families received two blankets, two quilts and three pillows as a result of our chats.