Read Sajida’s Story
White mask, palette of 6 colors: yellow, pink, blue, violet, black and gold.
A 12-year-old girl took a brush and chose the blue and black. She painted the mask with these two colors and then chose the yellow to paint the remaining white part of the mask.
The story of the mask and colors was narrated by Sajida Ismail Dib who hid her sadness by her smile. We met the young heroine of the story at Our Lady Dispensary, affiliated to the Middle East Council of Churches and located in Sabtiyeh – Lebanon. There she was participating in one of the sessions of the psychosocial support program organized by the MECC Diakonia Department. Among all the children, we founded Sajida, coloring her little heart and giving colors to her feelings and pain. In the context of these colors and their meanings, we talked with Sajida, and discussed her hobbies, joy, sadness, and everything that worries her, so you may find… The story of Sajida!
I am sad…
As we do with all the children of her age, we asked her what profession she would like to have in the future, and she replied without hesitation, “I want to be a hairdresser and makeup artist… I also want to study how to use the computer. But that requires me to pursue my studies and go to school.”
When we discussed about her school, the smile disappeared from Sajida’s face, she said, “I am heartbroken, anxious… and many times I cry alone! But I still cling to hope!” What hope is Sajida talking about when she is already drowned in deep grief?
In fact, Sajida is the eldest sister among her four brothers and sisters. We asked her why she is sad, nut we concluded that many reasons made her sorrowful. She said “Last year I could not go to school because my parents could not pay the high school fee. I stayed at home and helped my mother with the daily housework.”
She continues, “each time I was seeing my friends going to school I felt great pain. Each time they were returning from school, I knew from them the lessons they had learned. As for me, I did not tell them the truth about my absence in classes, so I said I was sick. But alone I always cried. Why do my friends go to school and I don’t?! I didn’t tell my mom how I was feeling because I didn’t want her to be said, nor I told my dad.”
Little Sajida did not give up, and despite her family’s refusal, she worked in the field of sewing. Why does a young child work? She answers, “I want to earn money in order to help my family in buing our daily needs and requirements, especially milk for my little sister.”
When Sajida’s father founded a job the ambitious girl was finally able to continue her education journey. However, she still frustrated due to sadness. She added, “I hated school because the director there insisted that I enroll in the fourth grade instead of the sixth with the rest of my friends. The students bullied me and told me hurtful words. This is why my sadness increased, so I was always crying alone and tried to show my family that I was happy.”
Sajida, who is good in math and science, faces another problem in her education journey. According to her, she returns back from school with her brother walking from Sad El Bauchrieh region to home in Al-Fanar. Noting that the road is unsafe, especially at night, “I would not let my brother feel that I am afraid, so he will not be also afraid!”
During quarantine due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, we found a new story of deprivation with Sajida. She was unable to understand her online lessons because of the outages of power and internet at her home. The little girl was infected with the Coronavirus, which made her more desperate and tired.
“I’m suffocating! I need to tell someone everything I’ve been feeling!” With these words, Sajida continued her story and told us that she misses her little brother Kamel, who passed away at the age of one month and a half.
Kamel was the victim of a hospital in Beirut, which refused to receive him and provide him the needed treatment, due to the inability of his family of paying the high hospital expenses.
A glimmer of Hope
Sajida’s story is not over. We heard and saw her participating enthusiastically in one of the psychosocial support sessions organized by the Service and Relief Department – Diakonia, Beirut office of the Middle East Council of Churches for a group of children on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at Our Lady Dispensary, aiming at encouraging and supporting them in facing their daily challenges.
During the sessions, the psychotherapy distributed masks to the participants and asked them to color it according to their feelings in general, as the following:
Blue: in case they feel very sad
Black: if they feel sad without expressing it in front of their parents
Violet: if they tell their parents about all the pain they feel
Other colors: if they feel happy
In fact, most of the participants used the blue and black to express their deep sadness. This is what prompts us to sound the alarm, as the future of these children has been threatened by frustration and despair.
Sajida chose blue and black to color her mask, but she also used the yellow color as a glimmer of hope. She said, “One person in my life makes me happy, she is my mother. Only my mother’s smile gives me hope!”
Sajida’s story is one of the stories of children who are suffering from their loneliness, grieving in silence and facing many problems such as introversion, lack of communication with their parents, and even suicidal thoughts… All these difficulties suffocate them and have negative impact on their lives and their psychological and physical development.
Children are suffering because of the repercussions of the difficult living conditions that the country is passing through. They are robbed of their childhood even of their rights to education, playing and have fun. But can anyone hear the whining of these children amidst of all the chaos around us? Or have conflicts, crises and political disputes become a priority? It is a legitimate question that needs quick answers, otherwise the future is in danger!