The school’s morning bell rang. I stood outside the tent I was teaching at, took a long breath and entered. I looked around scanning the students’ faces, realizing how their ages ranged. Some were as tall as I am, and some patted me on my knee while looking up towards my face asking what my name was and what I will be teaching today. I took a long breath, told myself that I can do this and said “Good morning all!”
About an hour into the day, I recognized Shaima’ and Ali, the two kids facing each other in the photograph above. Shamia’, 13, is about two years older than her brother, Ali. During our very first class together, I kept an eye on them realizing how organized and dedicated they were. Shaima’ was like a mom for Ali. She sat by him making sure she is always there to answer any questions for him. If I complimented Shaima’s artwork, she would immediately hold up Ali’s work as well, so he can get a compliment too. There was a magical Halo on top of those two that invisibly tied them together.
Later that night, after a full day teaching at the camp, I tossed around in my bed picturing those faces that I remember from our class. Shaima’ and Ali were definitely among those I drew in my head again and again. Before falling asleep, I replayed Shaima’s responses to my questions many times. I re watched how she bent down to Ali every couple minutes to explain and translate. That night, I wished that I had a baby brother who I can take care of the way Shima’ did of Ali and I honestly wondered if I would have been as caring and responsible as she was. Looking back, I wish I had the opportunity to talk to Shaima’ and Ali more and get to know them more. I wish I had the time to visit their family or to thank them for joining me in the classroom. I couldn’t, so instead I wrote them this short letter.
Dearest Shaima’ and Ali,
It was an honor meeting you this past summer. As I’m flipping through my camera, I pause at your photographs. You two are very special for me and for everyone who have met you during the program.
I am honored to have taught you and am so happy that you were able to continue coming to the school throughout the summer. Thank you for not skipping class a single day. You are lucky that your parents didn’t send you to the fields to work, so please keep on coming to school always. Keep on taking education seriously. Education is your only weapon now, so fight for it. Remember to stand up for yourselves and to put your education first. I know how hard it is for you to grow up in a tent and I understand the hard times you are going through so I appreciate all the effort that you have put in order to learn in our classroom. Thank you for having all your supplies ready every time you walked into our classroom.
Shaima’, you are wonderfully raising Ali and giving him a role model, yourself, to look up to. I hope he grows up to become as amazing as you are. Thank you for taking care of him and looking after him all the time. Please continue to do so. I am very proud of you.
Shaima’ and Ali, I am sorry you are going up in a tent. I am so sorry you had to walk hundred of miles to flee a brutal war and face more brutal lives here in Lebanon. I am sorry you go to a tent school and I am sorry that you had to sleep on snow this past December. I can’t promise you better days but I can promise you that you will always be in my prayers. I hope the upcoming days hold better opportunities and chances for you. I hope I’ll see you soon. Stay strong, stay strong.
Nour volunteered at Jusoor’s educational centers in Lebanon during July and August as part of the summer volunteer program.