Imagine being displaced not just once, but five times. That’s what happened to Abdul Kader and his family. They had to move from one neighbourhood to another inside Homs in Syria, as brutal fighting closed in around them.
The experience left them afraid and exhausted, but was particularly hard on Abdul Kader’s three children, who had to leave their school and friends behind.
We were so scared, moving around from house to house, taking everything with us,” says Abdul Kader’s 14-year-old daughter Dania. “Every time we moved, I fell further behind in school,” adds her brother Saleh, 12, who wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.
When Abdul Kader first returned to the ruins of his home after five long years away, the scale of the destruction left him numb. “At first I didn’t react at all. I was in shock. I went in for five or ten minutes, then left. I just couldn’t stand it,” he says.
After a couple of weeks, the soft-spoken former Arabic teacher found the strength to return. Working alone in the rubble of his house, he slowly began to clear the debris and fill the gaping holes left by years of shelling – determined to rebuild his home and life.
With financial assistance from UNHCR, the family has been able to renovate much of what remained of their home, replacing doors and windows and repairing the water and electricity networks. Their situation is not easy, but they are glad to be in a familiar place. “Regardless of the circumstances, there is no place like home,” explains Abdul Kader. “The feeling of coming back is great. I feel like a bird that has returned to its nest after being away for so long.”
For Saleh, years of displacement and conflict have not crushed his spirit or dreams. “What’s happening now will not stop me. I want to focus on my education and not give up.”