DAMASCUS, Syria—For the last four years, 9-year-old Majed has been homeless—sleeping under plastic sheets, eating from trash cans and begging people for money.
It all started four years ago when a mortar exploded in the Yarmouk Camp in Syria while he and his brother were playing outside.
“I couldn’t find my brother. I hid behind a wall to watch the big black smoke, blood and dead bodies. It was the first time in my life that I had seen such things,” Majed recalled during a recent conversation with SOS Children's Villages.
Soon after the mortar fell, Majed, who was just 5 years old at the time, passed out unconscious. He woke up later in a hospital far from his home. He lost a finger in the attack—but more significantly, he lost track of his brother, his mother and his father.
Majed looked for his family for about a year after the attack. He eventually gave up looking, certain that they all had died. For the next four years, Majed would be homeless and without anyone to care for him.
“It’s impossible to think that they’re alive after four years. A lot of massacres, sieges, and armed clashes happened in Yarmouk and I can’t believe that they’re alive. I can’t even remember their names because I was so little at that time,” Majed said.
Members of the SOS emergency response team in Syria found Majed on the street a few months ago. He was immediately welcomed to the SOS temporary care center for Syrian children who have been separated from their family because of the war.
“He was sitting there alone in the corner,” said Abeer Pamuk, an SOS team member who met Majed in the SOS office in Damascus the day he arrived. “He looked sad, devastated and scared. He could barely put his head up to face the passing people. His clothes were all ripped. His nails, hands, teeth and hair were all damaged.”
There are about 130 children like Majed who currently live at two SOS care centers in and around Damascus.
There is a third center set to open soon in Aleppo. At the temporary care centers, the children—who have either been separated from their families or have parents who can no longer care for them—have a safe home where they go to school and receive counseling for trauma. While the children are there, SOS makes every effort to reunite the children with their families.
20 children who have been separated from their families arrive at the SOS Temporary Care Center near Damascus
Now at one of the SOS temporary care centers, Majed is off the streets and planning to go to school for the first time this fall. He says that his father and grandfather always emphasized the importance of education and that he wants to become a painter and a doctor.
“My eyes have always sparkled with tears whenever I saw children going to school,” Majed said. “I’ve never been to a school before and this is what I’m looking forward to doing when I stay with SOS.”
Abeer Pamuk contributed reporting from the SOS office in Damascus, Syria.