Ahmed smiles as he shared his heartfelt story. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
Nine-year-old Ahmed Bazar lives with his mother and two siblings in a poorly ventilated, one room store in the suburbs of Damascus. Ahmed truly enjoys learning, especially his reading class at the JRS Centre. Unfortunately, majority of his time is spent working to support his family instead of attending school. When he does have time for classes, Ahmed looks forward to his turn to read and shows the class that he has improved considerably since the last session.
Three years ago, the family was displaced from Shabaa due to the war. Ahmed’s father also went missing during that time and they are unsure whether he is dead or alive, or if he will return to the family one day. Ahmed and his older brother Amjad now bear the responsibility of supporting their family. Waheda, their thirty-five-year-old mother had an accident because of the war and lost her right hand. She tried to work for a couple of weeks, but had to stop because her physical conditions did not permit her to continue. Waheda is very dependent on the earnings of her two sons. She realizes that her little boys are tired, but she has no choice and she hopes that they will ultimately benefit by learning from their professions.
Ahmed works in a maintenance shop on engines at a place close to his home. This is tough work, done only by men. Ahmed has past the prime of his childhood and one cannot help but feel empathy for him when he says, “I do not like this work, this profession is very dirty. I go home and my clothes are so dirty, every day I have to change my clothes. I want to work like my brother, he works as a tailor and his clothes do not get dirty like me”.
During one of his works days, he came to the JRS Centre with greasy hands and one of the volunteers stretched out his hand to shake hands with him, but he felt ashamed of his palms and did not accept the handshake. Instead, he approached him and planted a kiss. Ahmed continues to wear a smile regardless of his difficulties.
He ultimately has no choice, the days he does not work, his mother and brothers are deprived of a meal. His employer is also very dependent on him. He is often left in charge of the store and is denied the possibility of coming to the Centre. Ahmed has said this more than once: “I do not want to practice this profession, Last week my boss allowed me to come just twice to the Centre. He says that I should not waste my time coming here.”
Ahmed’s wish is to learn how to write, read, and complete each level of school. He also wants to engage in educational and recreational activities with his friends, despite having to work and bear the responsibility of an adult. Ahmed finds his safe space at the Centre and never gives up his real desire to learn. Here he steals a few hours almost daily to forget the stress of work and the unfair life he endures.