Ahmad, 26 years old. from Douma.

Hope is hard to find, and we do need hope, desperately! We’re going to tell some of the stories of new beginnings, how the people of Ghouta are managing the exile circumstances and how they’re trying to make the most out of a bad situation.

“When I was a student at school, I used to ask my father to allow me work at a barbershop during summer break, even for free; I just wanted to learn this career.

When I was 14 years old, my father allowed me to do that. I just watched and learned. Whenever the barber was not in the shop, I used to try to cut the neighborhood children’s hair. I used to call them saying “come over, I will cut your hair for free.” When the barber recognized that I really wanted to learn the career, he started teaching me and asked me to do easy things. I started to improve my skills and he started to trust me until I learned the career. Then, he started treating me as a partner, not as a worker.

Because of the shelling and siege, I had to keep moving from one place to another and my own barbershop became just a handbag. Under the siege and because of poverty, I used to do my best to help people; I used to cut the hair of a number of children on feasts for free. Also, whenever there was a wedding of a poor groom, I used to cut his hair for free as a wedding gift. And whenever a boy asked me how much it would cost to cut his hair (because he did not have enough money), I used to tell him I would not take any money.

During the last attack on al #Ghouta, there was intense shelling and all people were staying in basements, nobody walked out and life completely stopped. That attack went on for a long time and people started to manage their food in the basements and also their hair cuts; they asked me to work in the basements and I did. I used to cut the hair of 10 to 15 people in every basement. I listened to their stories, delivered news from one basement to another, especially in case a person wanted to check whether somebody in another basement was fine or not. Sometimes the shelling was so heavy that I could not go out and I used to stay in such cases with the people in basements. We became so close like a family.

I stayed like that until the green buses were sent and forced displacement started. I packed my luggage and took my handbag and left with everybody. We went to the Northern Countryside of #Aleppo, and we stayed in the camp there. At that time, I was still under the influence of what had happened and I did not want to do anything, it took a while. The camp people started to ask me to cut their hair because they know I am a barber. I started to do that. Things started to get better than before and I decided to start over, even if I had to start from zero. Life goes on and regret is never useful.

Then, I started going to the market place to find myself a shop; or maybe to work with some barber. I kept looking until I found a small shop and it was suitable for my work but I could not afford its rental and furniture alone. I asked my relatives and acquaintances for help. A cousin of mine finally agreed to pay the costs and I work and we became partners.
I started working in the shop and everything started to look up and, God willing, with time I will adapt more to the new circumstances.

Some of the people I met in the basements are now my customers again, but this time we are meeting above the ground. The people I know supported me and some of them come a long way to my shop. Also, the people I know from the camps have become my customers and started to come to my shop.

I tell everybody that they should adapt to the new circumstances and continue their life. I tell them my story and how everything got better for me. I tell them they should start over.”
Ahmad, 26 years old. from #Douma.