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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Children of the Streets

Beirut, Ras Beirut, Hamra June 9, 2010

The opportunity was the traffic light signal; it turned red and cars, even though it was in Beirut, actually stopped. A 10 to 12 year old girl with brown and blond hair ran towards a taxi and started talking to the only passenger in the front seat. She wanted money and she was not shy about her job. She was persistant because she stood there exchanging words. The car windows came up, end of conversation and the girl accomplished no financial gain, this time. But as she talks to strangers, day in, day out, she is apt to learn much, that most of us won't, much about human nature, about people, about attitudes. Even though it is not a socially accepted way for a child to learn or make a "living", it is a fact of life in Lebanon.

The other girl that ran to another fancy car was of the industrious type, she offered her unwanted service, car windshield cleaning. As a child of no more than 12 years of age, and still not tall enough to reach long and high enough to do a good job of it, it was obvious that the service was a token for begging without begging. She had a little spponge in the left hand and a squeegy in the right. Afraid for his car and the unwanted service and the proximity of the child and her dirty clothing from his fancy car, the driver turned his windshield wipers on. As this act also automatically activated the water nozzles, the girl blocked the stream of one nozzle with her left hand holding the sponge, and now her dry sponge is holding water. She smiled. She felt she accomplished something by getting water on her dry sponge.

Who are these kids?

Maybe today I will ask one of them.

OK, so I did. I met Layla and Zeinab, cousins. They come from Aleppo, Syria and speak "Turkmani" and arabic. They live in Nab3a and take the bus to come and go places. Today they're in and around Hamra. Today they had no school, like probably other days. They ask for money, food and water which they give to their mother to pay the rent.
This, the poor coming to Beirut to make a "living", has not changed. And the poor being so young and independent, that too has not changed. Sad but true.

Meet Zeinab and Leila :)

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