Memoirs of a Syrian Peacemaker

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Chapter 1: Safe spaces

How do I help my people who are suffering from displacement? What exactly am I supposed to feel, when over 1.5 million individuals around me are struggling to find food and shelter? How can any “one-man” do anything, and actually have impact?

Those are just a few of a long list of questions I had to ask myself over and over again; I cannot stop the war, I cannot turn back time… I am just one person; my impact cannot be noticeable… But it had to be.

I knew that I couldn’t and will never figure it out alone. I needed to hear them. I needed to listen to them tell me what they need. No more assumptions.

Based on that thought, I gathered a group of volunteers, and rented a tiny flat within the Urban refugee camps of Sabra & Shatila, at the heart of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. We called that flat the BeFriend Me Home. Our home became a safe space where we regularly gathered groups of widowed women and their children, for sessions in which they can share any thought or emotion they need to let out, while their kids receive educational support, to help them get through the difficult schooling state they were in, if they were in school, to begin with.

The safety of the BeFriend Me Home created a highly valuable bubble in which anything is okay. A bubble in which we all love and support one another regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity or any other factor of division.

The space started becoming a destination for these people, and after a while of letting out their anxieties and fears, they started generating constructive ideas. Discussions started taking progressive turns, and the safe bubble started becoming a think tank. They were helping each other come up for solutions to alleviate one another’s weights.
The most valuable thing I could do is bring people together, to remind them that they are not alone and that family is the utmost priority, and as long as we are one big family, none of them is ever alone. Moral support is more important than financial donations, and yes Humans do feed on love. They went from waiting for support, to themselves finding creative ways to support each other, just because they felt safe and surrounded by people who truly care.

Creative safe spaces for marginalized people is crucial for achieving peace within any community. It is a pillar in peace-building and without a possibility for release, for feeling loved and being able to take a break from this “survival” mode in which they are forced, there could never be a proper reconstruction of the social fabric; it is just impossible to move forward and rebuild our lives without feeling good with one another.

By breaking boundaries and dividers, we create bonds which are sure to drive our future generations towards a better life.
The more we create safe spaces, the more we take our world towards a “safe world”.