By Nora Hakramaj

A YOUNG mum left severely burned during a kerosene explosion says she has learnt to see her scars as beautiful

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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Nora Hakramaj, Ed Baranski, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal, Grant Hanson-Vaux

Solara Jaafar, 21, from Hyattsville, Maryland, was just two years old when the accident occurred, leaving her with third degree burns across 70 percent of her body.

The explosion, which happened in her birthplace Lebanon, was so extreme that it left her in a coma for six months.

Her nine month old brother also tragically died in the blast, leaving her to mourn his passing while coming to terms with her own disfigurement.

Solara said: “It happened on December 26 1997, my parents were celebrating their anniversary and they had a really big Christmas party.

"The house exploded because there was a can and they had kerosene in it and somebody lit it and the whole house went up into flames.

“There have been a lot of times where I have thought about what if my brother were to live and I didn’t, would he have been like a doctor by now?

“I do feel guilty for surviving, and there are times when I mess up or I do something wrong, and I feel really bad or like he’s disappointed at me.

“I didn’t really understand what had happened to him and my parents told me that every time I would see a baby walking by I would think it was him, and I started crying and asking them what happened to him.

“At night, I would pray and I would ask God ‘Can I have him back’ or talk to God and just say 'Maybe tomorrow he’ll be back'. It was really hard for me to lose him."

In Lebanon Solara was treated affectionately in her neighbourhood, but after her family migrated to the USA her scars made her the target of sick bullies, and led her to attempt suicide on four separate occasions.

Solara said: “When I moved to the States, I was five or six years old, and it was very difficult because the kids would constantly tease me and bully me.

"Even adults would stare at me and ask questions, 'Is it contagious?', 'Can my child get this?'

“There were times at school where the teacher would ask all the kids to lock hands, and nobody would want hold my hand. They would call me a monster. I would wear a wig, they’d pull it off or they pushed me during recess. I would eat lunch in the bathroom or, I go home and cut myself or, contemplate suicide.
"I had thought God was punishing me. I remember giving up. Like, I have just had enough and I was tired of everything I had gone through and all the pain I had suffered and I had tried to end my life.

"I remember that day not wanting to live, not wanting to survive. I wanted my life to end."

But determined to survive, each day she would look at herself in the mirror and recite a mantra about how she was beautiful.

Solara said: “After high school I gained self confidence by doing like little techniques in the mirror.

“Some of the things I would say to myself in the mirror are, ‘You are strong. You are a survivor. You are brave and you could overcome anything.’

“For a long time I didn’t love myself. I hated my scars and myself. But being surrounded by my family and my friends and the love they showed me, really helped me to find love within myself.”

Solara had a son in 2013 and while her relationship with the baby’s father broke down, she found lasting love with her husband Gabriel.

In spite of the trauma, the young mum has finally accepted her scars with the support of her loving husband, who reminds her daily how beautiful she is.

Solara said: “During my adolescent years I struggled with it a lot. I struggled with my love life a lot because all my friends they started dating and whenever a guy would show interest in me, he would hide it.

“I met my husband at a rave. I know it’s not an ideal place to meet your loved ones.

“When I first told my husband about the explosion he cried. He said, ‘Well, you are a survivor.’ And since then I feel like everyday he tells me like, ‘Wow! You are so strong. You are so beautiful. I am so lucky to have you.’

“My husband has been a godsend. He has just been so amazing. Whenever I get really down he just lifts me back and cheers me up.”

Solara has even made best friends with another burns survivor, make-up vlogger Shalom Nchom, whose stories have brought them closer and given Solara a shoulder to lean on.

Solara is interested in studying psychology and hopes she can one day help and reach out to other burn survivors.

“My life has completely changed since then. I still suffer from depression, PTSD and anxiety. But I am a lot stronger now. I don’t contemplate suicide ever. I am in a better place now,” she said.

“I hope that I can remain as strong as I am now mentally. I hope that I can go back to school. I want to be motivational speaker and a role model for other kids who are going through similar things.

“I am so thankful that I didn’t end my life and my life didn’t end that day.”

To help Solara, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/help-solara-with-medical-expenses