Always a Child in My Mom’s Eyes

Narrated by Bashar Kerdi
Compiled by Wei Yu-xian
Translated by Wu Hsiao-ting
Photo by Jessica Yang

I kissed my parents’ foreheads the day I left Syria, and gave another kiss to my beloved homeland. Tearfully, my mom said, “I hope you stay, but I also hope you go, because only then can you stay safe.”

Bashar Kerdi, the head of the registration department at El Menahil, is pictured with two children during a visit to Tainan Tzu Chi Senior High School in southern Taiwan. The school includes a high school, junior high, elementary division, and a kindergarten.

Back in Syria, I served as a school principal while also running a computer repair shop. My wife was also an educator, a teacher. We had two children, owned our house and car, and led a comfortable life.

In 2011, the war transformed Syria into a nightmarish place. Despite my efforts to continue living there, I had to leave in 2016. On the day of my departure, I kissed my parents’ foreheads and bid farewell to my beloved homeland. Tearfully, my mother told me, “Your three sisters have already left; you are all I have left. I hope you stay, but I also hope you go because only then can you stay safe.”

I left my children and pregnant wife behind because I didn’t know what the future held. I went to Idlib first, near Türkiye, but couldn’t find work. A month later, I fled to Antakya, Türkiye, but the cost of living was too high. Eventually, I moved to Istanbul, where I opened a computer repair store.

In 2018, I decided to give up my computer repair business and joined the staff at El Menahil school. The school provided a sense of belonging, wrapping me in a warmth reminiscent of my mother’s embrace. I missed my family dearly, being away from them for so long. Fortunately, in the same year, I successfully arranged for my wife and three children to join me in Türkiye. The greatest joy was when we all acquired Turkish citizenship.

On February 6, 2023, massive earthquakes shook Türkiye. Many of my relatives lived in the heavily affected area of Antakya; over ten of them lost their lives. Tzu Chi didn’t leave us to our own devices; the next day, they took me to the disaster area on a school bus, allowing me to bring back three families.

I currently serve as the head of the enrollment department at El Menahil. Many parents wish to enroll their children in our school, yet available spots are limited. For children, the most challenging part is feeling inferior to their peers. They perceive the world through the pure lens of their souls, wondering, “Why do some children go to school every morning but I can’t?”

One day, a little girl and her mother came to El Menahil. The girl gazed at me with hopeful eyes, yearning for admission into our school. Both of them cried in front of me. The mother pleaded, “Sir, I bought her a school uniform, a backpack, and shoes. One day, she hugged them and cried herself to sleep. Please make her dream come true.”

I stood before them helplessly, facing one of the most challenging situations of my life. Many children were like this girl—El Menahil was akin to their paradise. How I wished to fulfill all these children’s dream.

After becoming refugees, we were reduced to mere numbers. This stripped us of our dignity, but Tzu Chi has played a pivotal role in helping us regain it. The foundation also gave us an opportunity to serve the needy. On this trip to Taiwan, I brought a gift from Türkiye—a decoration hand-knitted by my mother. In crafting this work, she poured seven years of longing for me, imbuing it with her motherly concerns and love—the kind that never forsakes you under any circumstances.

In my mother’s eyes, I am still a child. How I yearn to be embraced by her once again! I want to give this cherished knitting to Master Cheng Yen, who is like a mother to us, as a heartfelt token of gratitude for all that Tzu Chi has done for us.

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