CAIRO – Miles away from home, Syrian young children have turned to be breadwinners for their families in refuge.
"At the beginning, I got tired of the responsibilities," Omar al-Kurdi, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon, told Wall Street Journal.
"I was comfortable in Syria. Here I have to worry all the time. But I'm used to it now, what choice do I have?"
In Syria, Omar was a good kid who got top grades, helped his disabled father manage a small shop selling cigarettes and snacks and hung laundry for his mother.
As a refugee in Lebanon, Omar became the family’s breadwinner, working 14 hours a day in a vegetable shop.
Sacrificing a promising future in pursuing a degree in physical therapy after finishing ninth grade, his last formal schooling, he now works in a vegetable shop where his salary of $15 a day pays for rent and food.
“Before the war, I was a happy kid,” he said, hanging a bunch of bananas on a hook at the shop located in Beirut's working-class neighborhood of Borj Hamoud.
Syrians usually stop by the vegetable shop every day to ask for work; nearly all of them, Omar's boss said, boys younger than 17.
"I already have one Syrian," Joseph Nakhle, the shop owner, would say, pointing to Omar. "Go someplace else."
"Omar is a hard worker and more important he is very polite," Nakhle said.
"That's the reason I've kept him around."
In the winter, Omar worries usually increase as he strives to make ends meet.
"My salary comes from this hand and goes out the other," he said.
The growing responsibility of young Omar was adding so many woes to his ailing father.
"I never saw him cry so much in 20 years of marriage,” Raghda al-Kurdi, Omar’s mother, said referring to her husband.
Long accustomed to relying on her husband, the mother now takes the list of family needs directly to Omar.
“We weren't poor in Syria. I could provide for my family. We aren't used to this,” the tearful mother, a former shopkeeper, said.
"This is what God wanted for me," Omar said, as he walked to work, "to grow up very fast."
The revolt against Assad began as peaceful protests calling for democracy and greater rights, but gradually turned to an armed struggle, pitting the Sunni majority against the president and his minority Alawite sect.
At least 125,835 since the start of the Syrian conflict, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced last week.
The UK based network, said that the toll included 44,381 civilians, 6,627 children and 4,454 women.
Thirty three months after the eruption of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, more than two million Syrians have been forced to flee their home to neighboring countries in addition to the displacement of two millions others inside the country.
In Lebanon alone, more than 835,000 Syrian refugees are registered, although the real number is thought to total more than one million.
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