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Sumaya Suleiman says her two eldest children attended school in Syria only three days in September 2013. Then, the school was shelled. Mrs. Suleiman has asked the sisters to enroll them, but for now, the school is overflowing.

Turning people away is heartbreaking, Sister Micheline says. “That is the most difficult part — when I have a lot of refugee people and I have nothing to give them.” Her dream is to build another school to accommodate those she presently cannot.

Mrs. Suleiman remains grateful for the assistance she has received from the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, including a variety of jackets, shoes for the children and many other household essentials. Sister Micheline’s ongoing work shows that even one person can make a difference in the lives of families torn apart by war.

“I feel that day after day all our activities are being guided by God for the success of children. God is always supporting us,” she says.

In the second-grade class, 31 students range in age from 7 to 10. From an earlier lesson, the whiteboard still carries verb conjugations in English: “I am,” “you are,” “he is.” The sisters hand out books and red, yellow or pink plastic backpacks emblazoned with cartoon characters — such as a smiling Dora the Explorer — to every student.

The students are asked to draw pictures of the life they remember in Syria. The drawings are filled with images of blood and guns and bombs — a sad insight into the minds of children scarred by the horrors they have witnessed. A little boy with cropped, jet-black hair and a steel-gray sweater draws three red figures on the left smiling and holding big orange assault rifles. He says these are the rebel soldiers. Across from them stand two red figures firing back. They are Syrian army soldiers, he says. Neither of them is smiling. Above, three blue planes drop bombs on an orange tank. A figure covered in red falls from one of the planes. The wall of a nearby yellow house has been erased and redrawn with jagged edges.

This illustrtion is drawn from Alaa al Lemat’s memory of life in Syria. But life in the Bekaa valley could not be more different; electricity, running water and paved roads are scarce, but violence is rare.

Sister Micheline has few of the resources she needs to meet the overwhelming needs of the growing flood of refugees coming across the border. However, she does not allow herself to be deterred. She has made it her mission to ease their suffering and bring hope.

“The best moment for me is when I see the children happy, successful in their studies and their lives,” Sister Micheline says, “when I see them able to overcome the difficulties and continue to achieve.”

As for the future, Sister Micheline Lattouff does not look too far ahead, believing instead that God wants her to be here.

“I feel like God is holding my hand and leading me. God is talking to me through the events, and telling me how to help solve this.”

Watch an interview with author Diane Handal at this link.

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Journalist Diane Handal has worked with the Associated Press and covers events in the Middle East for ONE.

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