Mais is a 6-year old girl from Damascus, Syria. Mais has Down Syndrome since birth. When the war erupted in Syria, the beautiful rural Damascus was no longer safe place for families living there, including Mais’ family. Raids and bombardment turned the situation into life-threatening one and Mais was one of those who were seriously affected.
Home is no longer a safe place
During one of the raids, Mais was hit by a ricochet. As the war interrupted all services including health ones, so Mais couldn’t access the health care she needed and the ricochet left her physically-impaired. Moreover, when Mais had to undergo cardiovascular surgery, doctors couldn’t provide her with the right medication she had to receive. The wrong medication made her unable to move her legs at all.
Undergoing the hazardous fleeing journey
As the war showed no sign of abating, Mais, her parents and brother had to undergo the hazardous fleeing trip from Syria to Lebanon. During the 12-hour road trip, the family had to cross through different barriers and checkpoints which was a terrible experience for them all. At each checkpoint, Mais’ father was at risk of being arrested, simply because he used to work as a blacksmith. The army officers suspected that Mais’ father was helping “terrorists” to make bombs and it took the family much efforts and time to convince the officers that he had never been involved in that.
"We didn't want to leave our country, but we had too. We left everything behind and were not sure that we would ever be back. That was so hard for all of us," recalls Mais' mother
Feeling safe for first time in 2 years
Arriving at Lebanon, the family stayed with one of the father’s friends for two days before resuming the trip to Egypt, where they have been living for three years now.
Upon arrival at Cairo Airport, the family felt “safe” for the first time in 2 years. Though not sure what life is waiting for them but the idea that they no longer hear the sound of explosion was enough reason for them to feel relieved. Later, they moved to the coastal city of Alexandria.
The early months were very challenging for the family as whole, Mais and her brother were traumatized and the family had to move from one flat to another because they couldn’t afford the rent.
Having the basic needs met
Yet, the situation started to gradually improve when the family got engaged in the project Plan International Egypt is implementing with donation from UNICEF. Through this project, the family receive financial aids, food items and also get engaged in several activities that help them to be resilient.
Getting engaged in our programme
Now, Mais’ mother regularly attend “Parenting Education” sessions, which provide her with the space to learn more about child rearing, nutrition and made her more capable of becoming responsive to the specific needs of Mais. For Mais’ mother, such sessions are also good opportunity for her to mingle with other Syrian and Egyptian women and overcome the sense of alienation.
"I no longer feel lonely. In parenting education sessions, I meet many Syrian and Egyptian women. We've become so close friends. They are now like my second family," says Mais' mother
Mais is also now participating in the different activities of the “Child Friendly Space” which are contributing to making her recover from the trauma through the psycho-social support and recreational activities she gets engaged in.
The right to be included in school
Yet, Mais dreams to go to school as her peers without disability. She has never gone to school neither in Syria nor in Egypt. She hopes that one day; she will be able to enjoy her right to education.