Lebanese Alaa Abdel Karim al-Bouz is 21, the oldest resident of the Home of Hope orphanage in Kahale, on the mountains east of Beirut. Alaa’s parents died when he was an infant and after growing up in an orphanage his elder brothers abused him. After two years in prison, Alaa found stability at the Home of Hope, but without legal papers he cannot work legally and could be arrested if he leaves the orphanage.
“I was taken to an orphanage in Tripoli [north Lebanon] when I was too young to even remember. When I was 11 I went to find my grandmother because I wanted to live with her. But she refused to recognise me as one of the family and so I went back to the orphanage for another four years. After my grandmother rejected me again, I went home to live with my two elder brothers.
“My eldest brother Ziad used to send me out onto the streets to sell chewing gum. If I didn’t bring him back at least US$25 each day he would beat me up. Some nights I preferred to sleep on the street rather than go home.
“When I got a bit older, Ziad got me selling marijuana, then cocaine and heroin. I started smoking marijuana and when I was stoned Ziad used to sell me to men for sex. I had a job as a dancer in a bar and after dancing I would have to sleep with men for money. Ziad started injecting me with heroin and then I started doing it myself.
|Ziad got me selling marijuana, then cocaine and heroin. I started smoking marijuana and when I was stoned Ziad used to sell me to men for sex.|
“I was arrested at least eight times on the streets because I have never had any official papers recognising who my parents were. The police would take me off to Roumieh prison [18km northeast of Beirut].
“I found out when I was 17 that my parents had died in a fire when I was an infant. The only memory I have of them is a picture of my father I stole from Ziad’s house.
“I came to the Home of Hope when I was 19 and I haven’t taken any drugs since. I feel very lonely sometimes because I am much older than all the others here. I spend most days cleaning the floors or chatting with the teachers. I don’t have any plans for the future. How can I when, without any papers, I cannot go to school or get a job?
“I sometimes go and sit by my favourite tree and ask God to give me back my mother and father. Now that I know Joseph [a Home of Hope teacher who has unofficially “adopted” Alaa] I feel better. But when Joseph and his wife leave me here for a couple of days I get upset. I keep asking myself: What if I lost my parents again?”
Government could do more to tackle child labour
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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