World Vision chief executive Chris Clarke travelled with broadcaster Rachel Smalley to the Middle East to meet some of the millions affected by the Syrian conflict. He was struck by the number of fathers having to make impossible choices for their families.
He looks downwards and shakes his head in response to my question, "What do you hope for?"
No words are needed. His silence says it all. His once proud life is reduced to a tarpaulin, some sleeping mats, a wood stove and a fast-dwindling pile of firewood.
Outside it is sleeting and despite the best efforts of his children to keep the wood stove primed, it is still bitterly cold inside.
He rallies briefly when I ask him about his old life in Syria. He describes a life very similar to my own. A teacher, he lived well - a family home with a garden, children at school, pets and family celebrations. We were happy, he says. His favourite memory was lying on the couch with his wife watching videos on a weekend night.
"Have you seen Lethal Weapon?" he asks. The irony is not lost on either of us. His home, his dreams and his esteem now reduced to rubble.
Like many of the men we interviewed, he used the word "humiliation" to describe his life as a refugee.
Each day similar to the last. He can't get work so he spends his day shuffling between the tents, in the hope he will see someone from his old village. But for much of the day he sits in his tent ... in silence.
And the best I can offer is to be silent with him. Sometime later, I point to a photo hanging from the tent wall. It is the only reminder he has of his parents. They stayed behind, telling him; "We were born in Syria and we will die in Syria".
Their decision to stay meant he was faced with a terrible choice - as the bombs started to rain down on his village did he flee to comparative safety with his wife and children, or did he honour his filial obligation to stay and to care for his parents?
He chose to leave - an impossible choice and one that clearly haunts him to this day. A now closed border means that when his parents die - they will die alone.
He is a broken man - his identity and his ability to provide for and protect his family taken from him through no fault of his own.
Suddenly, without prompting, he tells me he still loves his wife and his children, it's just that he can't look after them any more.
As if on cue, one of his daughters gets up and sits in his lap and absentmindedly he starts stroking her hair. She smiles up at him and he is lost in thought.
Then he starts talking about the night they fled Syria and left behind her pet dog and doll. He told her it would only be for a little while but that was more than two years ago.
Over the next few days elements of his story are repeated time and time again. We meet men once plumbers, farmers, shopkeepers, government officials ... all broken and struggling to come to terms with their fate and, in particular, struggling with the choices that out of love they have been forced to make.
One describes the decision to marry off his 14-year-old daughter to a much older man so that she would be safe when they crossed the border.
Another talks of the decision to allow their 12-year-old son to go and dig potatoes and onions so they can afford to live. A young boy forced to leave behind his dream of becoming a doctor to become a man overnight.
Each father describing impossible choices that no parent should ever face. "Had I known then what I know now I wish the bombs had taken me in Syria," he finishes.
Without prompting, one of his sons leans over and tops up our coffee. He is the spitting image of his father. I fear his father's is truly the lost generation. May that not be his son's fate as well.
To raise funds to support 12 million Syrians, including 5.6 million children, who have fled their homes to other parts of Syria and neighbouring countries since the Syrian civil war began four years ago.
New Zealand Herald
, broadcaster Rachel Smalley and World Vision, one of 21 non-government organisations (NGOs) working in a United Nations-led coalition in Syria and surrounding countries.
The 21 NGOs said last week they needed US$8.4 billion ($11.4 billion) to respond to the crisis.
Art auction for Syria, Gow Langsford Gallery, 26 Lorne St, Auckland, Wed March 18, 5.30pm,
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