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Tamam’s story

Tamam explains how she has found a new home and community in Lebanon


Tamam holds up a photo of her late husband and the home she left behind in Syria.

Tamam holds up a photo of her late husband and the home she left behind in Syria. Photo: Ruth Towell/Tearfund

Indra, Alisha (eight) and Prakash (three) on the steps of their home in Nepal.

From: Home and hospitality – Footsteps 116

How hospitality, kindness and planning can reduce vulnerability and help communities to flourish

Tamam lived a quiet and comfortable life in northern Syria with her family. They had a home in the countryside where they reared goats and cultivated fruit, olives, vegetables and herbs. Tamam remembers ‘a big land where we used to walk. We would just walk and not worry.’

When conflict came to her village, everything changed. There was no electricity or running water, the crops failed and the family became hungry as food prices rose. Eventually, Tamam and her children fled, making the difficult and dangerous journey to Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon.

All gone

‘This is the garden in front of my home,’ says Tamam, holding up a photograph. ‘It was a beautiful day and everything around us was nice. It was a happy moment. All that is left of that moment is this photo and me. Everything else has gone. My husband (who died in a car accident), the garden, my home… they are all gone but I remain.’

Tamam’s family now live in two rooms in the middle of Beirut. Their home is cramped and dangerous. The buildings are badly constructed and the roofs often leak and collapse. The neighbourhood is not safe for her traumatised children and finding enough money to pay the rent is a constant struggle.

Tamam is devastated that she and her children live in such conditions. ‘In Syria we did not have financial pressure,’ she says. ‘We did not have to worry about making ends meet. We did not have to pay rent, we had our own home. We were more comfortable and life was easier. Here we have faced economic pressure: paying for rent, paying for the children and all of their needs.’

Tamam with two of her children.

Tamam with two of her children. Photo: Ruth Towell/Tearfund

Welcome and friendship

Tearfund’s partner, Tahaddi (which means ‘challenge’ in Arabic), has an education centre right in the heart of the community where Tamam now lives. Staff from the centre helped Tamam to set up her new home when she first arrived, giving her mattresses and financial support.

Later, Tamam was delighted to join Tahaddi’s sewing programme. There she has learnt a new skill in tailoring, which provides essential income. Just as importantly, Tamam has found a warm welcome and friendship.

To Tamam, the Tahaddi centre is a home where she can recover her self-worth, dignity and health while her children receive trauma support and an education.

‘I would like to thank the Tahaddi centre,’ says Tamam. ‘But I would also like to thank the other women who are with me in the sewing programme. They have become like sisters to me. They are very caring, very kind.’

Tamam (centre) has found home and community with the other women learning to sew at Tahaddi’s education centre.

Tamam (centre) has found home and community with the other women learning to sew at Tahaddi’s education centre.

Daring to dream

Tamam’s new skills have helped her to be more positive about the future, and allowed her to dream of returning to Syria. ‘When I think about going back to my home one day, I feel happy. Because now I will be able to open a sewing shop and teach my children the same skills.

‘It is hard to explain what home means to me… Home is the feeling of having all my family and holding them dear in my heart. Without them, my heart would be empty.’ 

Tahaddi has been supporting Syrian families in Lebanon since 2011 offering free medical care, trauma counselling, home visits and material assistance. They run an education programme for children, and literacy and skills classes for adults.

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