No stranger to hardship and loss, Dania is an inspiration to her community. Despite difficult family circumstances, the loss of her husband, and an accident that ended with the amputation of her foot, she has tirelessly pursued her dream of helping her community and supporting others. Seeing the difficulty that local residents faced to secure clothes, food, and personal items, Dania created a business plan for a small shop. She is determined to grow her business so that it may benefit the entire community. In her own words, “I will prove to all, God willing, that despite my injury I am still active in society. My injury will not prevent me from work and self-discovery.”
Dania’s story of hardship is, sadly, all too familiar in the context of the Syria war. Women are rarely the instigators of war, but they are nearly always on the receiving end of its bitterness. Death, deprivation, and loss of dignity form a black portrait in their lives.
Dania and her family have known much suffering. Her sister was born with an oxygen deficiency and tragically left life at just 14 years old. While Dania had the opportunity to complete her secondary education at some of the best private schools in Homs to study commerce and economics, local conflict forced her family to flee their home and re-settle in Sakba, Eastern Ghouta. Missing her school certificates from Homs, she spent three years living week to week on the meager salary of a dentist’s assistant.
Eventually, Dania received her school certificates and began preparing to work in education herself, entering the field as a kindergarten teacher. She stayed in that role for just one month before she got married and moved to Zamaleka to live with her husband. A month later, tragedy struck Dania’s family once again: her husband was killed. Frustrated, melancholic, and in a difficult mental state, Dania knew she had to stand up to the circumstances and keep moving forward. Refusing to give up, she took a statistics job with the local council.
Yet, more hardship was to come her way and, in January 2016, she injured her right foot. With Ghouta under siege and experiencing a shortage of doctors and medicine, it was determined that amputation of her foot was the best option. The loss of a foot would be enough to defeat anyone, but Dania remained determined. “I suddenly decided to be victorious after 15 days,” Dania recalls. “I often stumbled in the street, but I was determined to move forward and not surrender.”
Five months into her healing, Dania was thrilled to receive a prosthetic foot. But after just a year with her new foot, she began experiencing intense, unbearable pain.The poor prosthetic material, the only ones available in Ghouta, were to blame.
Undeterred, Dania took on additional work at the school as an activity facilitator in the Psychosocial Support Centre. She visited homes and schools to offer psychological support to mothers and wives of martyrs, and ultimately made her own contribution to the centre: a section for art and creativity.
Her days are long, often beginning at 6:00am, but Dania doesn’t mind. “When I get out of the house, I forget all the bitterness and grief,” she says. Seeing Dania’s passion, a friend who works at the Maharat Centre made a suggestion: why not help relieve the suffering of town residents by opening a shop?
With this new business venture, Dania hopes to help local residents secure clothing, food, personal items. She requires start-up capital of $15,000, which will cover:
- Battery + LED lights for the shop: $450
- Battery charger: $60
- Solar panel: $350
- Shelves and mirrors: $250
- Water tank: $100
- Building and shop renovation: $500
- One year of rent: $1,500
- Goods for the shop: $10,000
- One month of miscellaneous expenses: $200
- Six months of employee wages: $1,500
March, 2018 Update
Dania Alshaar has moved to Aleppo countryside recently, after the evacuation of Eastern Ghouta. It is her hope that she can now settle in there with her family, and realise her dreams of opening her own store.