This blog by a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Syria living in Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian camp south of Lebanon is part of a series of blogs written by adolescents involved in the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) participatory research groups in the Middle East. Young people aged 15-19 from diverse nationalities and geographic backgrounds have been engaging in participatory research activities, including participatory photography, peer-to-peer research and diary writing since early 2019.
On International Migrants Day, this blog focuses on adolescent refugee experiences in Lebanon and shares their perspectives and priorities for change.
Firas Toameh’s* story as told to Sally Youssef
Firas is a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Syria who lives in Ein el-Hilweh camp in Lebanon. Firas left Syria when he was 8 years old, and he is continuing his education in Lebanon. He finished Grade 8 and will register in a vocational school next year. Firas will major in nursing because he has a passion to help the sick in his community. Since the spread of covid-19, Firas started volunteering with a humanitarian organization that provides medical services in Ein el-Hilweh camp.
My story began when I found my dream profession. I always dreamed of becoming a nurse, but my family did not approve because they did not want me to study in a vocational school. With the spread of covid-19, I decided to volunteer in the first aid apparatus inside the Ein El-Hilweh camp. It was an enriching experience for me.
In the second month of the spread of covid-19, I went to the first aid apparatus center and applied to volunteer because I wanted to help my community. I was accepted. In the training courses, I learned a lot of medical information and how to use medical devices and provide first aid. After completing these courses, I became one of the volunteers who could go on missions. During my volunteering work, I learnt how to comfort patients and their families, and to lift their spirits.
Volunteering was also an opportunity for me to learn some medical terms. I also learnt some words and expressions in the English language that I did not know before. In addition, I learned patience and the ability to manage hard situations, such as informing a family of a patient’s death in a gracious and respectful manner.
The medical field can be difficult and psychologically stressful at times, especially when you see the pain and sadness of people in front of you. However, over time I learned to control my emotions. Watching educational videos has helped with that and I’m more capable of overcoming my fears and providing better assistance to patients. I used to be an anxious person but after my volunteering experience, I became calmer. When my parents saw how I changed and improved myself in such a short period of time through volunteering, they changed their stance and allowed me to enroll in a vocational school to study nursing.
My advice to young people is to do what they love, to choose a field they are interested in, and to volunteer because this will help them benefit from it on a personal level. I also advise parents to give their children the opportunity to choose what they love in their education and support them in their ambitions, because it is the only way for them to excel.
* Name is a pseudonym chosen by the blog author