6 August, 2019

Jamal* is an eight-year-old girl from Syria. She lives with her parents and three siblings all in a one-room home in the Dekweneh area of Lebanon. Their house is hand built by their father with only blocks of stones.

Jamal and her friends

Jamal (front right)

Staying with five members in a confined area distracts Jamal from studying and completing her homework, therefore discouraging her from learning. At the start of this school year, Jamal received low grades and failed in the first semester. She is in the first-grade and attends ADRA’s homework support group daily. One of the tutors, Ms Hanady, noticed Jamal was struggling to keep up at school. She also observed that Jamal has pronunciation issues. As a result, Ms Hanady worked harder with her, helping her to pronounce each letter.

Jamal Lebanon 4

Jamal receiving one-on-one support at ADRA’s homework help group

On top of her learning problems, Jamal did not eat her daily snack, which is provided to her in the classroom. The community mobiliser called her mother to learn of any issues that may prevent her from eating properly, and it was discovered that Jamal does not eat properly at home either. One of her mother’s methods to encourage her to finish her food is to tell her that, if she eats her food, her skin will become “whiter and more beautiful”; she regularly points out that her sister is “too dark” because she does not finish her food.

The ADRA staff were shocked and disappointed to hear this. It had to be explained to the mother that children are very easily influenced by their parents, as they play the most critical role for a positive attitude, especially towards body image. It was pointed out to the mother that saying these comments may be the cause of her eating disorder and rejection of food. The ADRA psycho-social workers introduced a different approach to the mother and Jamal, to help her health. Jamal is now supervised daily during lunchtime, and tutors share with her positive and encouraging comments. Over time, it was noticed that Jamal is now eating better, achieving higher grades, and has more energy.

Jamal Lebanon 3

The children playing at the ADRA Centre in Lebanon

*Name changed for privacy reasons