These best friends were bonded by war and exile

When Samira and her family fled the violence of the civil war in Syria for Lebanon, they thought they would be back in their own home within months, with enough time to get the kids enrolled in the next school session.

“We didn’t bring anything from our home, except for some clothes because we thought we would be back in 2 months,” said Samira. Seven years later, the family is still not able to safely return home. In those early days adjusting to life in Lebanon, Samira struggled to connect with her new surroundings.

“When I came here, I had just come out of a state of war. I was depressed and didn’t want to see anyone. I kept on thinking about war. I was always scared,” Samira said. “Everything was ‘Syria, Syria, Syria.’ Until I slowly started to meet people.”

One of the people who started to bring Samira out of her depression was her Lebanese neighbor, Souad. A tiny but vivacious woman, Souad is quick to smile and always ready to provide tea, compliments and advice.

“I felt like [Samira] was an easy going person. So I started to call her and invite her over to get to know her. And she would do the same,” said Souad. “So I wanted to help her. I was also very comfortable with her. There was trust between us and I felt like she was an honest person.”

Samira was happy but surprised to be so openly welcomed by her Lebanese neighbor.

“Lebanon opened its door to us and welcomed us very well,” Samira said. “But labor workers started having fewer jobs. Because of this, there were some tensions. There were little jobs left for the Lebanese.”

Making a living was hard for Samira and her family too. She was doing makeup and hair for weddings but wasn’t able to make enough. Souad suggested they take out a loan, funded by Kiva lenders, so they could both build their businesses. With the Kiva loan, Samira bought used wedding dresses to rent to Syrian brides for affordable prices. Souad and Samira helped each other pay back the loan successfully.

Thanks to this new business, Samira was able to double her income from $300 a month to $600 a month. She was also able to help move her family into a larger apartment and buy supplies her kids needed for school.

Samira’s clients are often brides from Syria who are missing loved ones on their special day, either because they live in other regions or because they were killed in the war.

“When I see that a bride is sad, and there are tears in her eyes, I try to create a good atmosphere for her,” said Samira. “I tell her that today is her wedding- that she is going to have fun...I try my best to make her look very beautiful so that she becomes happy.”

Samira hopes her children never have to experience war again, and that they have a bright future.

“I wish for them to achieve their dreams,” she said. “I like it when girls, or even boys, follow their dreams and make something out of it. Kind of like me, I made something out of nothing. From one loan, I created a business and strengthened my work.”

The experience of taking the loan with Souad further bonded these best friends and their care for each other is evident as they sit together, expressing how much they mean to each other.

“We became friends. And now we’re more than sisters,” said Samira. “We are more than family.”

About the author

Talea Miller

Talea is excited to combine her love for powerful storytelling and her digital strategy experience. She comes to Kiva from the Kaiser Family Foundation, where she managed digital strategy for the foundation's consumer-focused PSA campaigns. Prior to that she was a reporter and producer at the PBS NewsHour for five years. At the NewsHour she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the developing world as part of the program's global health unit, covering a wide range of stories including the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, doctor shortages in Tanzania and the mistreatment of the mentally ill in Indonesia. In addition to being a news junkie, Talea enjoys photography, hiking and attempting to paint. She graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. in Journalism and is originally from Maryland. So she also knows a lot about horses.