February 16, 2022
Diana Ayoub


Over the last two years, while first world countries spiralled into the chaos of lockdowns, work from home and panic buying, most third world countries were experiencing a very different narrative. War, economic crises, extreme poverty and technological deficiency are the sad reality as the pandemic continues to spread with no end in sight.

I grew up in Lebanon, a beautiful little country on the Mediterranean, with deep cultural and historical heritage, forever doomed to political turmoil. Just as Covid hit in late 2019, Lebanon plunged into ‘The Deliberate Depression,’ an economic crisis of unprecedented scale (impressive, considering the country’s long-standing history of unrest) The World Bank has deemed it ‘one of the top ten, possibly top three most severe economic collapses worldwide since the 1850s.’ ("Lebanon Sinking Into One Of The Most Severe Global Crises Episodes, Amidst Deliberate Inaction")

Me with my mum and sister in the 90's, Lebanon

I’ve been living in Sydney for the past nine years, and like a lot of expatriates, my home country holds a special place in my heart. And I have been restless, wanting to help but not knowing how. I get the unfiltered stories of the daily struggles from my family and friends back home; the electricity blackouts, the public corruption, the shortage in medicine and the collapse of the health system, the abysmal wages and nationwide struggle to provide for basic essentials… I’ve always been proud and in awe of one particular thing the people of Lebanon are good at, to always rise up from the ashes.

Throughout the course of history, Beirut has been burnt to the ground 7 times and rebuilt every time. It’s known as the country of the phoenix; no matter how bad things have gotten, the people hope and persevere each time.

We have proven to have an unbreakable spirit. But even the phoenix has its limits. This time the attack is from all sides, physical, financial, emotional and mental… from the inside and out. And it’s relentless.

A career in illustration and design might not be how one would imagine taking on world problems, but I believe we have the power (and the responsibility) to do good no matter what career path we choose with whatever tools are at our disposal. So when a project comes along with the invitation to be part of the change and have some impact, you take it.

I was lucky to be part of such a project with the Bible Society: a wonderful and deeply impactful program developed to help kids and teens in the middle east through their healing journey from traumas of war and social problems. It tackles real issues that stand in the way of those kids and their future: from loss and displacement to drug abuse and sexual violence. I was tasked with illustrating the stories told as part of the program. They were utterly gut-wrenching.

My challenge was to find a way to visualise the darkest and most harrowing moments, while maintaining an inch of hope - slim though it may be.

I intentionally did not depict the scenarios in a literal way; instead, I opted for storybook magic realism that would spark the kids' memory and imagination. The illustrations brought those experiences to life in a powerful way, guiding the reader through the familiar darkness towards the light. 

Illustrations for the Trauma Healing for Children program (watercolour)

The Trauma Healing program began with a focus on refugee children from Syria and Iraq who were driven out of their own war-torn countries en masse into Lebanon. Over the past couple of years, as Lebanon fell into its biggest economic crisis yet, the team at the Bible Society expanded their reach and adapted it to cater for all families who are suddenly struggling.

According to a recent report released by unicef, 3 out of 10 children in Lebanon have stopped their education in order to buy essential items, like basic food and medicine.

("Lebanese Crisis Forcing Youth Out Of Learning, Robbing Them Of Their Futures: UNICEF Survey")

Now, trauma training is being provided for school teachers to integrate the program in their classes and help the students whose homework is the last thing on their mind. 

Illustrations for the Trauma Healing for Teens program (digital ink)

My mum is a teacher at one of those schools; she did the training herself and is working on implementing it with other teachers. They are trying to do all they can to keep going, but they need help. They’ve set up a campaign to raise money to cover tuition for their students; even just a few dollars can make a big difference.

Donate Now

If you would like to help and can spare the price of a coffee or two, you can make a donation here:

No one should have to choose. Illustration by Alan Chen


“Lebanon Sinking Into One Of The Most Severe Global Crises Episodes, Amidst Deliberate Inaction". The World Bank, 2022,

"Lebanese Crisis Forcing Youth Out Of Learning, Robbing Them Of Their Futures: UNICEF Survey". Unicef.Org, 2022,