© UNHCR/ Andrew McConnell

For someone who’s only 22, Hany Al Moliya has faced more than a lifetime of challenges.

He’s legally blind, yet is an accomplished photographer.

He lost his home, his friends and his

education, yet managed to hold on to his dreams during three long years in a Lebanese refugee camp.

He’s now been living in Regina, Saskatchewan, for only

nine months, yet he is already

reaching out to help other refugees. Hany is

the oldest of six children; his

youngest brother, Ashraf, was born on March 15, 2011, the day Syria’s conflict began. Just a few weeks later violence shattered their comfortable neighbourhood in Homs, Syria’s once thriving third-largest city. Bombs fell, shells exploded and the family of eight huddled in one room, eating and sleeping together.

“It wasn’t safe anymore to walk to school,” Hany says. “We never knew when the bombs or bullets would come. Nobody knows who’s right or who’s wrong. There are no rules in Syria anymore.”

A year and a half went by and Hany’s family tried to keep a sense of normalcy. Up until then, he lived the life of a middle-class teen, living in a neighbourhood surrounded by more than 200 of his relatives. Hany was a rapper, a writer, poet and a dreamer. In grade 9 he learned English by watching music videos online and reading Dan Brown novels. Bright and articulate, he wanted to go to university and become a communications engineer.

Despite the shelling, Hany was determined to graduate from high school, and did, with excellent marks. But he knew there was a good chance, even with his vision impairment, that he would be conscripted into the army. And then his cousins were murdered in their homes, two of at least 100,000 Syrians killed since early 2011. It was time to get out.

UNHCR / 17

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