Peaceful in the treetops

By Suzy Sainovski, Communications Director – Syria Crisis Response

I had a truly bittersweet experience whilst visiting Lebanon recently that I found both peaceful and disturbing. My Lebanese friend invited me to spend the weekend with his extended family in the Bekaa Valley, which is currently home to about 800,000 Syrian refugees. I was looking forward to visiting his family, as I currently live in Jordan far away from my own family in Australia.

Our mission that weekend was a personal one. We set out to release Merlin - an owl that my friend had rescued from mistreatment, back into the wild. A poacher had captured Merlin, damaging his wings in the process, and kept him in a small cage. We drove out to a forest in the Bekaa Valley, the perfect home for an owl to live in peace. There was a camping ground nearby where children were playing and enjoying the weekend.

My friend placed Merlin’s cage down on the ground and we positioned ourselves with cameras ready to capture the moment when he flew to freedom. It was quite a warm day in the Bekaa Valley, but a lovely, cooling breeze was blowing through the trees as we waited for Merlin to gather the strength to fly.

Unexpectedly, we heard five loud bangs. At first I thought they might have been from a car backfiring or perhaps even gunshots, but quickly realised they were bombs going off in Syria, just over the border. The fifth bomb was particularly loud. My Lebanese friends didn’t seem too startled by these sounds and I found it sad that they had heard them so often that they had become desensitized to the sounds of war.

It was such an odd experience - that we were part of this loving, peaceful act in releasing Merlin back into the wild, whilst children were being frightened, and possibly injured, by bombs just over the mountains.

Merlin struggled to take flight, but on the fourth or fifth attempt, he did it. He really did it. We waited for a long time to make sure he was fine. When we left, he looked peaceful in his new home high up in the treetops.

As Merlin soars freely through the trees and we head towards International Day of Peace on the 21st of September, my hope is that someday soon there will be a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict so children and families can return to the country they love.

There are currently over four million Syrian refugees in countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. World Vision has reached approximately two million refugees, internally displaced people and vulnerable host community members with assistance including food, water, sanitation, health, child-friendly spaces and remedial education. In response to the needs of refugees in Europe, World Vision has started distributing baby kits and items for refugee mothers and their families currently living in camps in northern Serbia. Visit worldvision.org.uk/refugees to find out more.

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