We met Nova during a mental health support group at one of the five Social Development Centers (SDCs) currently supported by Medair across the Bekaa area. She was sitting among many Syrian refugee women, whom were very much looking forward to the session to begin. According to Khouloud Abbas, Medair’s Psychosocial Support Officer, every woman that is part of the sessions will talk about their struggles and express their emotions and how they deal with stress. “Every story teaches us something new. But above all, the discussions allow these women an opportunity to raise their voice, to speak up, vent, and encourage them to pursue which aspects of their life they would like to improve,” says Khouloud. As the sessions are held in private, we caught up with Nova afterwards to hear her story.
“How do I pour my heart out to my husband when he’s facing more struggles than I am? I don’t have the heart to vent.” says Nova.
“I was forced out of Syria with my family in 2013 to the area of Marj, in the Bekaa Valley. I didn’t want to leave. I was happy in Syria. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of how happy I was in Syria with my family. It never fails to put a smile on my face. Unfortunately, that’s the only way I experience happiness these days. My husband and I had a very strong bond. We were really close and looking forward to building a better future for our one-year-old son. With the blink of an eye, we were stripped of all our hopes for a better future,” says Nova.
After fleeing from Syria, Nova says her family tried to make the most of the situation with the little they had. Fast forward eight years, Nova’s reality became dire. With the escalating crisis, people in Lebanon have limited opportunities to gain an income. Nova’s family struggle on a day-to-day basis. The bond she once had with her husband is slipping further and further away.
“You know the bond is something I always really valued. When you have someone in your life, that understands you and is there to listen to you, it makes a life a lot easier. But how do I pour my heart out to my husband when he’s facing more struggles than I am? I don’t have the heart to vent anymore. I bottle up everything inside me, and it’s eating me from the inside out. I can’t do anything about it. The stress the pandemic brought, the economic downfall that Lebanon is going through, seeing my kids at home all the time with no future education, and they can’t even read or write. It eats me up and I have no one to go to, to vent. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to come to the session today. I feel like maybe if I attend these sessions, it’ll help me cope better with the struggles we are facing and perhaps I can support my family better if I am feeling better,” says Nova, with a hopeful tone of voice.
After her first session at the Social Development Center in Marj, Nova was excited again about the future. She concluded her session by expressing her with gratitude.
“It has been a while since I’ve felt this way. This butterfly feeling in my stomach must be good, right?” says Nova with a giggle. Moments after she continued: “Today I am extremely happy to have been present for the session, and I am really looking forward to the next sessions. It felt good to speak up and vent to others, just like me, about my struggles. When you’re in a bubble, you forget you are not the only one going through struggles. These groups of women are amazing, and I am really looking forward to sharing more with them. I hope that by the end of the sessions, with everything that I am learning, the bond between me and my husband will have grown stronger. I hope that we would have reached a point where we can talk to each other again openly. You may not notice it, but I am smiling,” said Nova, her eyes crinkling in a way that makes me realize she is smiling from behind her mask.
Medair supports five clinics in Central, West, and North Bekaa to improve access to primary health care services. Medair supports SDC clinics run by the Ministry of Social Affairs with human resources, medicines, equipment, capacity building, and supportive supervision.
Medair’s psychosocial support work in the Bekaa Valley Lebanon was made possible with the financial support of the European Union through the European Union Regional Trust Fund ‘MADAD’.
Medair’s support of the COVID-19 vaccination project is with the financial support of the European Union, Swiss Solidarity and private foundations, and with Gift in Kind from UNICEF. Support of the health clinics in the Bekaa Valley are supported by Global Affairs Canada in partnership with Tearfund Canada.