Solidarites International

« Where there is life, there is love » is the title of the graphic novel from Lena Merhej, inspired by a verse written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, “There is on this Earth what makes life worth living for”.
A verse and a title that both invite to positivism, poetry and resilience. Lena’s contribution highlights encounters in different informal settlements with people who, keeps on living despite the situation, despite the poverty, the vulnerability, and the anguish.

Lena explores the transfer of experience between generations within the context of this extraordinary and difficult situation; suddenly finding oneself as a refugee, in a country that is not yours, with only the hope for better days. How to continue the children’s education? How to build another “home”? How can we continue to celebrate life?
The answer that Lena brings through this graphic novel is a message of hope; a resounding « Yes », because, as she says, “there is always on this earth something that makes life worth living; there is always love.”.

After visits to three informal settlements in Akkar, Northern Lebanon, with SI’s team, Lena takes as her subject the intimacy familial stories, told around the traditional tea and cardamom coffee and homemade maamouls (pastries made with nuts and dates). She retraces journeys from the place or origin across treacherous lands to the relative sanctuary of Lebanon and the beginning of a “second life” here.

« I have been struck by the names of the places I have visited. Samouniyeh 018, Qaabine 009, all these camps are numbered, as to emphasize their important quantity and the fact that we can find them everywhere in the country. To live in a place that wears a number is very special.”
 « I have met different people, but all of them had a very special strength” says Lena, “Like these women who, every day, try to maintain their habits from their village by producing their own resources, and Fawzia who fights every day to work in order to feed her adopted daughter and her mother.”

In the informal settlement of Samouniyeh 018, the inhabitants all come from El Kusair, a city on the Lebanese border that was razed to the ground at the beginning of the war. “When we arrive in the camp, everything seems very organized. They built their own Kusair. The camp is very small but we find a mosque and a collective kitchen. Before, the mosque was a school, where adults took shifts to teach the children in the camp. This is a great example of resilience and transmission if values between two generations” explains Lena.

Discover the complete testimonies in the story of Lena!