The boy looks up at me, smiling with his eyes. They’re almost the same colour as mine and seem to want to communicate as much as I do.
I look at his eyes and think of what they must have seen these past few weeks and months. Our shared eye colour is about the only similarity I think we’ll find – I know that I can’t ever really understand what he’s been through, or even what he’s going through now.
His name is Fadi and he’s just arrived from war-torn Syria. Fadi, his two siblings and his parents have been driven out of their home by gunfire and shelling, every day inching closer and closer to their home.
Now Fadi is in a whole new country, Lebanon, where he knows no one and has nothing – not even a blanket to sleep under when it gets cold at night.
What home looks like
I’ve given him a pen and paper, and I’m trying to ask him to draw something. But I can’t remember the Arabic word for draw and my colleague Mona who has been interpreting for me is helping distribute warm pyjamas to the other children who, like Fadi, came over with little else but the clothes on their backs, and have had nothing to protect them from the cold that’s starting to set in.
So instead of talking to him in a language I know he doesn’t understand, I start drawing a house, with a couple patches of grass underneath.
I hand him back the pen and paper and gesture for him to finish the drawing as he sees fit. He puts pen to paper and draws a line. He draws another and then another with jagged lines becoming confusing swirls until a whole section of the paper is a mass of blue ink, angry, frightening and stark against the clean white of the paper.
At first I think that he may not have understood what I meant. But I think back to what his mother had just told me and I realise that maybe it’s not that he hasn’t understood – but that when he thinks of his home and his life back in Syria, this is what he remembers: anger, confusion, chaos and fear. And it’s not over yet.
24 people in one room
Now in Lebanon, this fear and confusion is still here. Fadi, only five, is living in a one-room shopfront with some 24 other people, sleeping on the floor and increasingly feeling the cold seep in through the cracks between the ground and the one door, often left open so that some air can circulate into the cramped room. There are no windows.
Like the other children living in this room, Fadi doesn’t have winter clothes. He doesn’t have a mattress to sleep on, let alone a bed. There aren’t enough blankets to go around, and – up until today – no warm pyjamas to change into at night when the temperatures drop even further.
Fadi has no boots or socks to keep his feet warm if ever he wants to leave this one room and play outside, and no gloves, no hat or scarf to protect him from the cold.
He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return home, and as the cold begins to set in, doesn’t have what he needs to keep him warm and safe from the wind, rain and plummeting temperatures that winter will bring.
Warm pyjamas and shoes
At Save the Children we’re doing what we can to help make sure children like Fadi have what they need to safeguard against the cold.
Today we’re distributing fuzzy pyjamas and shoes and it’s heart-warming to see how happy the children are, trying on their new shoes and running around, their bare feet no longer exposed to cold cement floor.
It’s a relief to think that tonight, they’ll sleep a little easier with pyjamas to warm them when the sun goes down.
But I know it’s not enough – the temperatures will continue to drop, and these children will need blankets and mattresses at night; fuel and stoves to heat their food and warm themselves; and better equipped shelters to stave off the winds and rains.
We need to do more, and fast. Winter is coming.