BY LATELINE/DAVID O’SHEA
Aicha Al Shebli says life in the Syrian city of Aleppo was wonderful before the war.
Her family had all the privileges of a modern country — doctors, schools and relative safety.
But early one morning in April 2013, Ms Al Shebli said their lives changed in an instant.
“I was in the house, in the kitchen making dough for bread,” she told Lateline.
“It was early in the morning. The kids were outside, playing amongst the sheep.
“It was a nice warm day but then both sides started shelling, the government side and the [Free Syrian Army] side.”
One of Ms Al Shebli’s sons, Khaled, was inside, sick in bed.
When a rocket hit their house it sent a fireball into his bedroom and he suffered horrific burns to his face.
“I believe something in the rocket was toxic, that’s what burned his face off. The rest of his body was covered up and only the face was exposed,” Ms Al Shebli said.
The family still does not know which side fired the rocket that maimed their son.
After the shelling they fled to a refugee camp in north Lebanon where they spent the next nine months.
While there, the family came to the attention of an Australian aid worker, who took their plight to the Australian ambassador who helped facilitate three operations for Khaled in Beirut.
In December last year, the Al Sheblis were granted refugee status in Australia and moved to Wollongong, south of Sydney.
A few weeks ago, Khaled, now seven, had the first of at least five more operations he will undergo in Australia.
The nose reconstruction has helped him breathe easier, and just this week Khaled had his first day back at school.