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Roula at the FVDL Centre in Beirut where she takes classes (Kristóf Hölvényi/JRS MENA)

Bourj Hammoud, 13 April 2017 - “I want to do everything,” says Roula coyly but with a sense of determination. The ‘everything’ seems to be the mission statement of the life of this vibrant fourteen-year-old girl.

Roula was born in Homs, Syria. She hardly remembers her father who died due to illness when she was barely three. Her mother had to struggle and bring up six children, two girls and four boys. It was a herculean task, but the family made both ends meet. 

That all changed when war broke out in Syria in March 2011. Overcoming many hurdles, Roula came, along with her mother and siblings, as refugees to Lebanon. A small apartment in the Bourj Hammoud area of Beirut has been their home ever since. Her sister, who is the eldest among the children, is now married, and lives in the same building. Roula is the youngest and gets along with her four brothers well. 

Roula loves to study. She is one of the fortunate refugee children who can go to a Government morning- shift school. She is very focused and wants to pursue a career as a scientist. 

“What type of scientist, would you like to become?” she was asked. She thinks for a while then shakes her head and says, “I don’t know yet!” 

When asked if she would like to become a Space Scientist, become an astronaut, and go to the moon or to mars’, she smiles, there is a glint in her eye and boldly she says, “Maybe!” For Roula the sky is the limit. 

She is also budding poet and artist. Her drawings speak volumes of her meticulousness and care for detail. However, her poems and jottings personify her passion and zest for life. From her notebook, she reads out a touching poem, which she recently scripted in Arabic: 

“I wish we could return to those good old days… I hope one day people awake from their deep sleep so they start loving, respecting, giving, and the souls return to their old days. I hope that one day we would be able to exchange bread for salt, love for feelings and respect for kind words. Yesterday was a lesson, today is an experience and tomorrow is a new beginning!”

Roula is adamant that she does not want to return to warn-torn Syria. Instead, she dreams of Australia. Her best friend recently settled down there. For the past year, she has been coming to the JRS FVDL Centre for the afternoon classes. “I love coming here. I make many new friends. I learn many new things. The teachers help me in my homework. Everyone is very helpful and loving”. She looks at the Principal of the FVDL School Angela Abboche and with an amazing smile says, “Yes, even my Principal!”

In her notebook, Roula has a meaningful quote: “When it is raining look for the rainbow, when it is dark look for the stars.”

While Roula’s life has had rain and darkness, she will continue to have the courage to see the rainbows and stars.