Jaramana, 20 March 2017 - Mahmoud seems to have seen it all in just about thirteen years of his earthly existence: war and violence, displacement and flight, rejection and loneliness, hard work and helplessness.
As he spoke about his experiences, the tears gradually rolled down his cheeks. His eyes were still heavy with sleep from having to work for long hours through the night as an office boy, “I do not like this work, it is really hard to stay up until 4 am daily; but I also earn SP1500 per day." He stops talking for a while then haltingly continues, "I do not know if I will continue in this work or not."
Mahmoud was born in Aleppo. His father deserted his Kurdish wife Samya, when Mahmoud was just one –year old. “I do not know why my father left us” he sighs. The tragedy is compounded because Mahmoud’s birth was never registered in the government records. He has no birth certificate. In Syria, officially he does not exist.
Later, his mother took him along to Al-Kabbas in Rural Damascus. With the outbreak of the conflict, they fled to Jaramana. Samya married Ammar who serves in the military. Life at home is extremely hard for Mahmoud; he is not inclined to talk about it. He does not even eat with his mother and stepfather at home; his only full daily meal is at the JRS run Alberto Hurtado Centre in Jaramana, Rural Damascus.
When Mahmoud first came to the Centre his behaviour was rather aggressive, unsociable and secretive. Life gradually changed for Mahmoud thanks to the conducive environment provided at the Centre - one of belonging and acceptance - through the child protection, educational programmes and individual counselling.
Bilal Al-Abdallah, one of JRS animators, at the Alberto Hurtado Centre, has played a crucial role in Mahmoud’s growth. Bilal’s forte is to accompany the children. A warm and loving person, Bilal helped Mahmoud to overcome the negativities in his life.
However, it is still not smooth sailing. Even as he talks, Mahmoud shows how much he has suffered in life; however, what he has achieved in the recent past is both courageous and praiseworthy.