What happens when the smiling young children who greeted us with "hellos" become teenagers who have grown up in the confines of Za'atari? If they see no future, they will become vulnerable to manipulation and radicalization. We have seen it before. We're about to see it again. The world must step up and act now.
Some families were in self-constructed shelters, using plastic sheets and pieces of wood. Many of their shelters had let in snow and water -- bringing misery to their inhabitants trying to stay warm. Aid agencies politely call the living conditions of these people "substandard." In truth, they are squalid and often unfit for human habitation.
During a recent visit to Lebanon, walking along Hamra Street, I was taken back to my childhood. My father and I meandered down this road en route to my favorite spot. Constantly stopped by friends, eager to talk, it seemed to take forever to reach the Modca Cafe, and the ice cream I so eagerly anticipated.
While some of the young are despondent, looking for nothing more than to grow old enough to die, the vast majority still dream of something better and are willing to do what it takes to climb themselves out of "The Lost Generation" that the international human-rights community has labeled them. Among these hopefuls, leaders emerge, those with an intense devotion to learning.