A CHARITY worker from Basingstoke has marked the eighth anniversary of the start of a devastating civil war by meeting refugees.

Elouise Hobbs, who grew up in Cranbourne and is currently world news officer at CAFOD (Catholic Agency For Overseas Development), met with refugees whose lives have been put on pause by the conflict in Syria.

The 24-year-old met refugees who are being supported by projects funded by the EU MADAD Trust fund

The United Nations (UN) estimates that the conflict, which began on March 15 2011, to date has killed over 400,000 people and left 6.1 million people homeless within the country, with a further five and a half million fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Elouise, who is a former deputy head girl of Cranbourne school, said: “Lebanon is a very small country, but they are hosting over one and a half million refugees – which has caused tension in many communities.

“I met one young woman called Aya who was the same age as me. I was amazed at her resilience despite the trauma she had faced and struck by how different our lives are. She had come to Lebanon to spend the summer, but it was not safe to go back home because of the war. That was seven years ago.

“There were many parallels between us – we are both young women with dreams and aspirations. But unlike me, Aya doesn’t have the safety net of knowing which direction her life will take or what her future holds.

“There are thousands more stories like this in Lebanon. Around half of the refugees are young people who are living in limbo – they have few opportunities and little hope of returning home soon.

“Aya is part of a really important project, called ‘Youth Resolve’, that helps bring Lebanese and Syrian young people together. Through this project, she has been able to build bridges in her community.

“She was very lucky as she was able to continue her studies but there are many young women like Aya whose lives were placed on pause due to the conflict.

“And although in the news it may seem like the Syrian war is nearly over, there is still a long road ahead for the millions of refugees who do not have a permanent place to call home.”