Action Against Hunger responds to Syria crisis

International Women's Day: Lava's inspiring story

Meet our wonderful colleague, Lava, a refugee from Syrian Kurdistan who now works with us to bring clean water to other displaced people.

By Florian Seriex

Mar 6 2015

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re sharing Lava’s remarkable story:

Lava is from Syrian Kurdistan. For 15 years, she lived in Aleppo, Syria, where she led an active life: she got married, studied economics and taught music lessons. She also belonged to a local women’s organisation because she wanted to help others—particularly young girls—in her community. But in 2013, conflict damaged her home and forced her to leave Syria.

“I really suffered from this experience," said Lava, who is a member of our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team in Iraqi Kurdistan. "My husband came to Iraqi Kurdistan a few weeks before me and it was very hard for him; it wasn’t easy to be accepted. At first we didn’t know the language and we couldn’t find jobs. We lived in the Domiz camp. This experience was deeply shocking—the living conditions, the psychological state of the people—it was terrible. Now it’s easier. I learned the language here, and although it took me several months, I found a job, first as an English teacher and now with Action Against Hunger in Erbil.”

Her first professional experience before joining our team was essential for Lava because, as she explains, it allowed her to feel accepted. “When I was teaching children, I felt good,” she says. “With children, there are no issues of language or origin. I taught them English and they taught me Kurdish. When people unite, they can overcome all the rest.”

In April 2014, Lava joined our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) team in Erbil. After her own experiences in a refugee camp, she became dedicated to promoting hygiene in Syrian refugee camps. Her work was not always easy, but she remained motivated. 

“I myself am a refugee, and I promised myself I would do my best to assist other families in need. Since I started this job, I’ve heard so many horrific stories from women and children. I cannot look at this situation and do nothing.”

In June 2014, a new crisis forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee to Iraqi Kurdistan. Lava now helps internally displaced people in the country that welcomed her. “I do not care where the people are from,” she tells us. “I saw this child who was badly burned—that could have been my daughter. How could I not help someone just because they have a different background or religion than me?”

The country’s recent succession of crises has been extremely difficult, but Lava says that she has seen many people be generous in the face of emergencies. “In a normal situation, people might not necessarily help, but an emergency is a very special context,” she explains. “When people unite, they can overcome all the rest.”

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