It is October 20th and we are on our way to Arsaal.
Arsaal: 130,000 people, of which three quarters are Syrians. 160 informal refugee camps (that is not recognized by the state). A place you need a permit to access, as it is surrounded by military checkpoints.
Beyond the window we see the landscape change. As we approach Lebanon's northeastern border, the plains and plateaus behind us give way to undulating ocher-colored lands.
The land is dry and the barren ridges we see in the distance are already in Syrian territory.
We slow down as we approach the entrance to the town, we prepare our passport and the personal permit to enter the area. When we arrive at the checkpoint, a soldier nods at us, which means we are allowed to continue.
The road crosses the hill and, slightly lower, the inhabited center of this large village opens up.

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When it’s been so long since you hugged a loved one and then finally you find her in front of you and you can hug her again, the emotion is very strong, wherever you are on this round earth.
"Would you accompany me to visit Mariam? I would love to see her so much... but I don’t dare go alone, I’m too afraid of what might happen. But if you were there, it would be different…".
Sometimes we as volunteers are bitterly surprised that, in a place already so full of pain, relationships can become even more complicated and conflicting, as if the external conditions were not enough to make life hard.
Randa has been stuck in the same refugee camp for eight years.
She is Syrian from Bab Amer, a suburban and overpopulated neighborhood of Homs.

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I am grateful for the moment of “grace” in which the veils of prejudices, judgments and misunderstanding over the persons are lifted up and they show parts of the latter that were unknown and concealed until that moment.  

This has happened with her.

The veil has been lifted up thanks to a dinner invitation, a little bit unexpected and taken from my side with some malice for a sort of facade. This is how we get to know H., a woman who looks after four children (the fifth one is already married although she is a minor) and who saw the Syrian soldiers taking her husband away; she remained alone, displaced among the displaced ones from Homs.

Her son, the only “man” of the family, tells us that, when he was seven years old, he entered his aunt’s house and found everyone dead.

His sister, who at that time was a bit older than him, tells us that she walked over many dead bodies after a bombing, while they were fleeing from the umpteenth shelter they had found. Few meters far, the son saw a rocket falling over a pregnant woman with a stroller who literally exploded in front of his eyes… the child in her womb died immediately after.

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10 years of war in Syria
during which we have learnt that we have to accept dictatorships, because those who dared to ask for freedom encountered only war and death.
10 years of tortures and war victims, of bombings on civilians, hospitals and schools, of silence and lack of intervention from our countries, 10 million of homeless and stateless people.
10 years that we spent mostly into tents inside refugee camps in Lebanon and this is something wonderful.
10 years of work to ensure that thousands of people could arrive in Europe through Humanitarian Corridors, so much for this lacking politics which cannot wait to reestablish its business dealings or to sell weapons; years that witnessed the courage of families, groups and local associations in welcoming and hosting people.
10 years in which we may have realised just how close we feel to this war as well as to the next ones and how it is deeply affecting our lives.
10 years during which we understood that this is up to us, that nobody will open spaces of humanity, peace and hope but you and me.


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Growing up, I have learned that the best journeys occur when I visit someone.
Even the encounter with Lebanon was like this, the first time was to visit the relatives of Syrian friends met in Italy, and then from the second time on it was a continuous greeting saying, "see you soon, inshallah", leaving with tears on my face for nostalgia of who I was saying goodbye and then return each time with a big smile hugging all those I previously had left.
Each time, more and more, and more and more often for four years.
This time it is different.
Each time it was a little bit, but this time I felt it inside me during the last days, before leaving.
The passage of time in recent years has shown me how people's lives go on, although I keep an eye on their daily lives depending on the period.
For some, things more or less remain unchanged, the "usual" life in the tent, with the "usual" work that comes and goes.
On others, god or destiny play yet another dirty trick, an unexpected illness, the death of a loved one, the beginning of a nightmare due to unjust persecution.

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