#MoreThanARefugee pictures show inspiring stories of Syrians in Lebanon

Picture by Ola Samhoury. Jana Zaaroura is six. Her family moved to Lebanon from Syria four years ago after her mother was wounded in an explosion. Jana’s dream is to be a doctor to help her mother totally recover from her injury and – says her teacher – “to be an empathetic doctor who treats poor people for free”.


World Refugee Day is a chance to commemorate the strength, courage and resilience of the millions of people who have fled their homes because of conflict and persecution.

A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors in Lebanon decided to mark this event – held each year on June 20 – by putting the focus on positive images of refugees through inspiring picture and stories.

Their photography competition and exhibition, which they named #MoreThanARefugee, aims to showcase the human stories and inspiring achievements of people who will be away from their homes for many years.

The number of forcibly displaced people is at an all-time high of 65.3 million, according to figures up to the end of 2015 released today by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

That is up from 59.5 million the year before. The new total includes 21.3 million refugees – about half of them under the age of 18 – 40.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 3.2 million in industrialised countries awaiting decision on asylum.

Mona Hassan, the 22-year-old Global Youth Ambassador (GYA) behind the idea, explained why she feels that sharing stories and images of refugees living in Lebanon is so important.

She said: “#MoreThanARefugee is not only a hashtag. It’s a statement that all the refugees in the world are now screaming to deliver.

“Sixty million people worldwide have been forced to leave everything behind them – everything they have ever built, every memory, every belonging.

Picture by Bruno Alexandre. These refugee children livein New Rouda and attend ADRA Lebanon education and psychosocial activities in Dekweneh. They – together with other refugee and host community children – helped paint the mural at a public access stairway in New Rouda. The painting is called The River of Life.

“They have been forced to throw themselves into the unknown and move towards an uncertain destiny. Do you think they are cowards? Cowards for what – for leaving their countries for escaping death?!

“I believe that every person in the world would chose life, even if the life he is choosing is an uncertain one.”

Mona was inspired after seeing Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York Refugee Stories, and wanted to find a way to do something similar in her own country.

Through the photography competition, which is being exhibited in Beirut throughout this week, Mona and her fellow GYAs hope to highlight the importance of investing in the future of refugee children. There is also a Facebook event for the competition on World Refugee Day.

Mona said: “Whether you are a refugee in your own land or someone else’s land, we are here to tell you that you are more than a number, you are more than just ‘one in 60 million, you are #MoreThanARefugee.

“We know that you have a story, that many of your stories are tales of success and achievement and we want your story to reach the world.”

Mona also wants world leaders and ordinary people alike to take notice of refugees as people with hopes and aspirations.

She added: “Keep in mind that the most beautiful flower of all is the one that blossoms in adversity. So please do not step on it.  Do not step on a dream and on a fellow human, on humanity.

“Help us make the whole world know that people who have been forced to flee for their lives are much much much #MoreThanARefugee.”

Picture by Kim EdwardsAbdulaziz, 14, fled from Aleppo in Syria to Lebanon three years ago with his family. He is the eldest of 15 children. He lives in the Mercy Camp just outside Zahle and attends the informal education program whenever he is not working on the nearby farms. He says: “My youngest brother was born a few weeks ago. We are a big family because family is more important than anything else.  It is not easy, but we are all together. And that is the main thing.”

Picture by Jad al Masri. “They wake up in the middle of night. They can’t sleep because of the bombs. I tell them that they are safe now, but they cannot forget. No one can forget. Everything is destroyed now. Even the schools. There are not enough schools left, and I could not afford to enroll them in a school; it is too expensive now. I thought in Lebanon they will have a better chance of getting into a school.”

Picture by Abdullah Altaweel. Ghada Al Shami is a 36-year-old Syrian volunteer providing support and help to Syrian children in refugee camps.  Two years ago she started drawing smiles and happiness on kids’ faces with the Shebab Al Ihsan volunteering team. This photo is from a campaign to give 1500 children sports shoes.

Picture by Kim EdwardsSalah, 10, attends the informal education program at Mercy Camp. He said: “I go to school every day, but I can only go for just one hour per day because there are so many children wanting go – we have to take turns to attend class. I study Arabic and maths. This is my first school photo.”

Picture by Farah Abou AssilThese tired palms belong to Nofa. A mother of five, she left her home, her belongings, her neighbours, her commitments and everything that made up her life behind to seek refuge with her children in Lebanon after the capture and imprisonment of her husband in Syria. Nofa has inspired many women around her to work and seek independence. She even developed her talent for weaving in a short period of time and has taught adolescent girls in the camps this skill.

Nagham, aged eight, is no longer going to school

Picture by Nour al Wahid. Nagham, aged eight, is no longer going to school. Last year she enrolled in a public one in the first grade class – but this year there is no transportation to the school an hour away. There is no school nearby. She says: “I dream of going to school. I just want to wear my uniform, put my schoolbag on my back and go back to school.”

Picture by Kim Edwards. Ezra, 11, from near Aleppo. She is the second eldest of five children. Her teacher says: “She attends English classes every day at Mercy Camp. Cheeky as ever, she is always stealing my camera and I find a zillion selfies on my phone after visiting.” Ezra says: “I love taking photos. I often borrow my teacher’s phone camera and take photos and videos.  Especially ‘selfies’. I had never heard of a selfie or taken one before the English team started teaching us. Now I take a selfie every day, whenever my teacher is not looking!”

Picture by Julian Zerressen. Taanayel from the Bekaa Valley says: “It’s not always about the greatest or the saddest stories, sometimes in can be quite a simple pleasure, as for example letting the kids wear my extravagant sunglasses. Taking them out of their stagnating day-by-day routine and making them laugh is the greatest feeling for both sides.”

Picture by Sandy Choker.


Where the world’s displaced people are hosted – Middle East/North Africa 39%, Sub-Saharan Africa 29%, Asia/Pacific 14%, Americas 12%, Europe 6%.

Top hosting countries – Turkey 2.5 million, Pakistan 1.6 million, Lebanon 1.1 million, Iran 980,000.

33,972 people per day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution.

54% of refugees come from three countries – Syria 4.9 million, Afghamistan 2.7 million, Somalia 1.1 million.

Largesr numbers of IDPS – Colombia 6.9 million, Syria 6.6 million, Iraq 4.4 million.

Source: UNHCR Global Trends Report 2015