Since 1999, Luma Mohed has helped raise 17 orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children at the SOS Village in Aleppo. But since the war in Syria broke out in 2011, life as a mother has taken on a host of new challenges—especially when she, her children, and the entire SOS Village were forced to evacuate their homes due to security threats.
As the war in Syria enters its 6th year, we sat down with Luma, an SOS Mother, to ask her what it’s like to be a mother today in Syria.
What is your happiest memory of at the SOS Village in Aleppo before the war?
We used to have dinner or Iftar (a meal to break the daily fast during Ramadan) with other SOS families in the backyard, and each mother would bring her own meal. We would eat all kinds of delicious foods together.
Describe how life at the SOS Village in Aleppo became more and more challenging from when the war began in March 2011 until you and your family were evacuated in August 2012. What changes did you notice to your life and the lives of your children?
At that time, the security situation became more and more dangerous at the SOS Village in Aleppo. First, we started to hear bombs and bullets from far away. But after the clashes between the regular army and armed groups moved closer to us, we started to see the mortars pass over the village. The situation was extremely dangerous so we had no choice but to evacuate the children to the SOS Village in Damascus.
Why was it necessary to evacuate the children in August 2012? At that time, what were some of the biggest risks to the children’s safety?
The kids started to feel unsafe, especially when the sound of the explosions became very loud. We left the village a month before armed groups entered it. Many people were killed after we left the town.
What was your biggest fear for your children at the SOS Village in Aleppo when you were living there during the war?
I was afraid that we would be stuck in Aleppo because we heard many times that the road to Damascus was closed. It had happened before we left, and it was difficult to get bread at that time. I was also afraid that the armed groups could enter the village at night even though the village had two security guards at the gate.
What was the biggest challenge that the children faced when they moved from the SOS Village in Aleppo to the SOS Village in Damascus?
Some of our children’s relatives or parents are still in Aleppo, so they haven’t been able to see them for more than three years. When we moved to Damascus, it took a long time for the children to adjust to their new situation. We lived with other SOS families at first, and we moved from house to house until we got settled. The children also were sad because they left their friends and school in Aleppo.
How is life better for you and your children in Damascus than it was in Aleppo?
Children play at the SOS Village in Qodsaya, Syria, located outside Damascus.
It is safer here, and my children have new friends now. They can go to school without any problems, but we wish that beautiful days return with peace to Aleppo so that they can go back again. Everyone shares this wish.
What has been the most difficult thing for you to deal with, as a mother, during the war?
It has been challenging to deal with children who have come to the Village after the war began. These children experience trauma because of the war. For example, one of my children was trapped under a newly destroyed building before he was rescued. I don’t know how long he was trapped until they got him out. When he joined us at the SOS Village, he was unable to talk or to laugh. He was so sad and crying all the time. It took him a long time to speak with us.
What is life like for your children at SOS Qodsaya? What do your children do during the day? Do they go to school? What do they do after school?
My children go to school, and they spend the afternoon studying, playing in the village garden and watching TV. Sometimes the tutor visits us to see what difficulties they face with their studies. My children love their days off because we usually have plans for it, and they can play as much as they want.
What are the biggest threats to your children’s safety at the SOS Village in Damascus?
The village is near two towns that have a truce with the government. There are no problems there now, but no one knows when and how the truce will be breached.
What is your favorite meal to cook for your children?
My children love to eat Molokhia (a traditional dish in the Levant that’s made with chicken and a vegetable similar to okra.). They are happy if I cook it every day.
In your opinion, what is the most significant, negative impact the war has had on the development of your children?
The war has affected everybody’s life in Syria. My children’s grades in school have decreased, and we are working hard now with tutors to improve their ability to study and learn. We are trying to keep them away from the stressful atmosphere of the war, but it is impossible sometimes. I am also afraid about the future of medical care in Syria because most of the good and clever doctors have left the country.
What do your children need most that you are unable to provide for them because of the war?
Because the security situation is so bad, I can’t raise them in a safe environment as I did with my older kids. I used to take my kids on picnics, and we attended many parties and activities. But we can’t do this regularly anymore. We can only go to specific areas.
What do you wish most for the future of your children?
I wish them happiness, love, joy and success in life, their studies and their careers. And I hope they will be reintegrated with their relatives and biological parents because family ties are the most important thing ever.
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Now in its its sixth year, the Syrian Civil War has left millions of children displaced from their homes, caught in the line of fire and trapped in poverty