A gift for Eid: Public space converted into playground for Syrian children
Syrian and Lebanese children in the southern city of Sidon put away their video games, ventured outside their homes and gathered at the port to play more traditional outdoor games like hide-and-seek to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday.
The Daily Star reports that Syrian refugee children got together in a public space near the port to play, many mingling with their Lebanese peers.
“Don’t you have public gardens? Back in Syria we had public parks to play in during Eid,” one boy was overheard asking another Lebanese child.
Sidon Port has been a gathering place for parents and their children during Eid for over 100 years. To this day, children still arrive at the port in throngs during the holiday and scramble to the playground, enjoying foods like pickles, lupins and beans when not running around.
“I feel nostalgic around this place during Eid because we would play here when we were young too,” Mohammad al-Samra said as he watched a boy named Issam on the swing, asking to be pushed even higher. His turn was up after 10 minutes and he paid the swing supervisor about LL5,000 for the ride.
A deserted strip of land was transformed into a playground especially for Syrian refugee children for the occasion, equipped with swing sets and other recreational games. Volunteers were also at hand to supervise the children and paint faces. Syrian families came from across Sidon to play in the area. Many had the Syrian flag drawn on their faces, the flag of the Syrian revolution specifically, among other images.
Though the Syrian refugee children had their own playground, many approached their Lebanese peers to join the fun. Fadel al-Batal, a young refugee boy from Aleppo, recalled how his entire family would picnic in the public gardens back home to celebrate Eid al-Adha. He still enjoyed playing in Sidon to mark the holiday, he said, but “it was a much more joyful occasion,” back home in Syria.
“The Union of Aid Organizations has tried to spread the joyous occasion of Eid to the refugees. The Islamic Welfare Organization distributed halal meat to more than 4,000 refugee families and other charities and schools are offering over 1,000 dolls to the children,” head of the union in Sidon Kamel Kozbar said. “We were successful in putting a smile on the faces of the refugees, despite their dire circumstances.”
“The union, in cooperation with the Sidon School Network, will secure more than 1,500 places in schools for Syrian refugee children by the end of the month,” Kozbar added.
While Syrian refugees sang Eid songs in unison, one mother, Haya, still longed for the comforts of home.
“We want to go back to Syria. We fear that our stay here will extend longer and longer,” she said.