Mariam* seated next to her eight-year-old son, Mahmoud, discusses the struggles of being a single mother to four children during the war in Syria.
“Two months before the war started, my husband had a heart attack and died. I was heavily pregnant at the time and gave birth to my son Mahmoud when the conflict started. He is turning eight now, like the war.”
Mariam was left with no money and was struggling to care for her children. She started working on a farm to put food on their table. At first, she brought Mahmoud to work in the fields with her.
“When he cried, I would quickly breastfeed him. I prayed that the owner of the farm would not see me.” Mariam lived under the constant fear that she would be fired and lose her family’s source of income. “How else would we have survived? I can endure hunger, but my children can’t,” she says.
Eventually, she had to take her eldest daughter out of school to take care of the baby so she could go to work. “It was so hard for me, but I did not have a choice.”
Devastatingly, the children’s school was bombed, so now all of Mariam’s children are missing out on education. “It makes me very sad. My older son can’t even read or write. Every person should have a happy childhood. It matters for our future. And I feel so sad that I am unable to give this to my children.”
Mariam’s work on the farm is hard. She earns the equivalent of 30 cents per day – barely enough for her family to survive. When she heard about CARE’s support for widows, she immediately applied, and was accepted.
CARE trained Mariam in business management and farming, and gave her three sheep, which she is using to get her family’s lives back on track.
“When we received the sheep, my children and I were very happy. We had nothing at all. This meant so much to us. One of the sheep was even pregnant,” she recalls.
The sheep provide enough milk for her and her children so that she no longer has to buy it. In the spring, Mariam plans to shear the sheep and make pillows and mattresses that she can sell to earn extra money.
“My only hope for the future is that my children will have a better life. I hope that we will live somewhere where we don’t have to do everything in one small room. More than anything, I hope that my children can go back to school and live the life they deserve.”
* Name has been changed to protect her privacy and anonymity