We need you to help the Forgotten Millions one more time. The Herald and World Vision have relaunched a major campaign to raise funds and help the millions of children left homeless by war in Syria. With your help we can make a difference to the children and their families in desperate need throughout this region

Hasnaa offers to do my hair. I'm not surprised. I parted company with my luggage six days ago in the chaos of Los Angeles Airport and I've looked a fright ever since.

"You can't complain about lost luggage," our photographer Jo Currie tells me, and she's right.

I've travelled to Serbia, Hungary and Turkey to report on Europe's refugee crisis and as thousands of Syrians arrive at the border with just a handful of possessions, it quickly puts my situation in perspective. I'll be just fine without clean clothes or a hairbrush for a week.

Hasnaa offers to do my hair again.


"The salon is just over there," she says and then flips through photos on her phone to reveal thick manes of Turkish and Syrian hair styled into curls, modern cuts or up-dos.

She is a striking looking woman. Her elegant hijab and makeup suggest she probably led a comfortable life before the conflict but, as for so many Syrian families, the fighting has turned her world upside down and left her stateless, homeless and impoverished. Hasnaa and her four children are now living in Urfa, a city just inside the Turkish border.

She tells me her husband was thrown in jail by the Assad regime but a few days later the supply lines to the prison shut down because of the conflict. The prison was abandoned and her husband, along with hundreds of others, died of starvation. I ask her how she's coped and she says her hairdressing helps pay the bills and so does her 12-year-old son, Mohammed, who works 14 hours a day, seven days a week in a supermarket.

"He should be at school. He's very clever, very smart, he excels at maths," she says.

She tells me she hopes to buy her son his own supermarket one day but for the moment, life in Turkey is a struggle.

The World Food Programme pays every refugee US$19 ($29) a month and that must cover rent, electricity, food, clothing, healthcare and essentials.

Turkey, like the border countries of Lebanon and Jordan, is an expensive country to live in on a refugee allowance. "Even with my salary and Mohammed's salary, we are still spending about two-thirds of what we earn on rent," she says.

Widad, Hasnaa's 14-year-old daughter, is sitting next to me. She is wearing a pretty blue scarf and has lined her eyes with kohl.


I ask her if she is at school. She shakes her head.

Hasnaa says Widad should be at school, but she can't afford the school fees, the bus journey or the books any more.

"She went to school for a short time and the teacher urged me to keep her there, but I can't afford it so I am training her in the salon."

The New Zealand Herald and World Vision have launched The Forgotten Millions campaign to raise funds to meet an immense and urgent humanitarian need. With your help we can make a difference for the children and their families in desperate need throughout this region

I ask Widad if she wants to be a hairdresser. She shakes her head, looks at her mother and shrugs. "I want to be a teacher," she says.

I have heard Widad's story many times before. She is one of many young refugee girls desperate to complete her education. There is no chance. Instead, Widad is likely to become a child bride.

There is no official statistic on the rate of child marriage among Syrian refugees, but World Vision says impoverished families are using marriage as a way of reducing the number of mouths to feed.

I look at Widad. Her mother is doing what she can for her, but it is almost certain she will marry before her time. Another young girl robbed of her childhood and denied an education. Another tragic example of the impact the Syrian conflict is having on the lives of millions of children.

Hasnaa's youngest, Nour, was just a few weeks old when her father died. Since then Hasnaa has managed on her own and travelled overland through Syria to get all of her children safely across the border. I tell her she's very brave.

"It has been a hardship but I feel I have risen in this time," she says.

She asks me again if she can do my hair. I thank her but say I have to go. "Next time," she says.

"Next time, for sure," I say.

I look at Widad. I wonder if next time it will be Widad who is urging me to come to the salon so she can do my hair.

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