As soon as the sun comes up, Dina* jumps from her bed with a big smile. “I’m going to school!” she tells herself. For Dina, this is a daily miracle. This 14-year-old student used to think she would never go to school like the other children in her neighborhood. But through her strength, her mother’s persistence, and the support of the church, Dina is defying all expectations.
Dina, whose family is from Nigeria, never felt the hot rays of sun in her home country. Born in Lebanon to an undocumented refugee mother and father, she had no legal immigration or citizenship documents except a birth certificate. Her mother and father had left Nigeria for Lebanon before she was born to look for work. They came to Lebanon with proper immigration paperwork, but because their financial situation each year went from bad to worse, they were not able to renew their passports and resident permits. Without immigration documents, Lebanese laws prevented Dina from going to public school where she could have received a free education.
Dina’s passion to learn continued in spite of these obstacles. However, her mother knew that with public schools being inaccessible for people in their position, the only other option was private schools. But those were very expensive, about USD $2,000 per year. No matter how much the family worked, they could not afford private school fees. Even if they had saved enough money, Dina had the “wrong” color skin.
Dina’s mother knew Dina needed an education. She turned to God for help.
That help came through the Nazarene Evangelical school in Beirut, Lebanon, which welcomed Dina with open arms. Undeterred by her inability to pay the school fees, leaders at the school took Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 seriously: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Dina enrolled at age five. Since then, the school has supported her using multiple resources. She is an NCM sponsored child and receives a discount on her tuition. Students have even taken up a love offering that helps her on a monthly basis. Finances have gotten even tighter for the family since Dina’s father lost his battle with lung cancer two years ago. He had been working at a factory, and up until he died, the factory owners permitted the family to live with him there. After his death, Dina and her mother moved into a very small room in Nabaa, an informal settlement in Beirut. What Dina’s mother earns as a janitor at a vocational school—where she is taken advantage of because of her undocumented status—is barely enough for food, rent, and electricity.
Still, the school continues to support Dina, and Dina is doing her part, too. Now that she is older, she earns money by tutoring a first grader at the school. She has proved that she is an excellent student—smart and highly motivated. She is thankful every single day that she was granted the blessing of being able to go to school. She even wishes weekends were shorter so she could learn more and enjoy time with her classmates. Refugee. Orphan. Poor. Undocumented. All these labels could be used to describe Dina, but she defies the limitations of these categories. Though she has been hurt and wounded, Dina has decided to continue her battle against the thorns of life. She wants to see her future full of roses. She is working hard, studying hard, and sacrificing a lot.
Dina said, “I am happy all the time because my God has helped me a lot.”
*Names of children have been changed for their protection.
You can help provide a life-changing and Christ centered education for a child like Dina today. Learn more at ncm.org/Christmas.