Mohamad grew up in Syria. He lived what many might consider a ‘normal’ childhood – his mother and father both had jobs, they had a house and a car and he spent his days going to school, making friends and having fun. But when Mohamad was 10 years old, a civil warA war between opposing groups of people within a country. broke out within his country and his life changed. Some people in Syria, including Mohamad’s mother, started protesting to remove the government because they felt the government did not give them enough freedom and privacy.
Before long, the war was happening next to Mohamad’s hometown and his mother was arrested and held by the police twice for actively speaking out about her views. One day Mohamad’s family received a letter saying they had two choices: to stay in their hometown and risk being killed by the government or to leave Syria. Overnight, Mohamad and his family fled to Lebanon. They left everything behind – their friends, family, toys, clothes and other belongings.
Life in Lebanon was safer, but Mohamad’s parents couldn’t find jobs and they started to run out of money. So Mohamad’s father had to move to Sweden to get a job and earn money for the family. Mohamad, his mother and his sister stayed in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Mohamad felt as though he had lost his life – he had left his friends behind, his father had to move to Sweden and he could no longer go to school. Instead of accepting his situation, Mohamad decided to make a change.
He teamed up with his mother and sister and they started a school under a tent in the refugee camp. Mohamad taught Maths and English to the children. He also decided to share his love of photography with the children by creating a photography club. Not only did the club bring out other children’s love for photography and creativity, but it also encouraged self-expression. Mohamad said, ‘There are a lot of refugee kids who are too shy to talk but not too shy to take a picture. So the picture can tell a hundred words – a picture of home, a picture of happiness, a picture of a better future.’
A few years later, what had started as a school in a tent became a real school building staffed with formal teachers and attended by 200 children, changing the lives of so many refugee children. Mohamad used his experiences and knowledge of the situation, along with his personal skills, to do what he could to improve the lives of others. He said, ‘The future is unknown, so I’m focussing on what I can do now.’
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