Livingonone12 karma2014-02-10 17:09:54 UTC
We have now met countless Syrians here in the refugee camp and every single one of them has told us that their single biggest wish is to return home. Many of our neighbors here had similar lives to us in the U.S. They miss their houses, jobs and communities. At the same time, they have shown us many photos of their homes destroyed in the conflict. For most people there will be very little to return home to.
Because of the prolonged nature of the conflict people have done their best to create a feeling of home in Za’atari. You would be amazed by what we have seen in the camp. Massive fountains, indoor plumbing, TVs, and even gardens.
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Livingonone9 karma2014-02-10 17:35:05 UTC
The living conditions here are actually much better than we expected. The majority of people have been moved to caravans instead of tents and no one is hungry in the camp. But at the same time it isn't "home" and life here isn't easy. The camp is in the middle of the desert so the climate can be extreme.
The biggest hardships are psychological. Leaving everything they once knew behind and arriving to the camp with only their clothes on their back has taken a huge toll on many people. Many people arrived traumatized from past experiences and feel isolated in their tents and caravans.
However, we have never met people more resilient! Even in the face of unimaginable hardship we have met the most inspiring people. One of our neighbors lost her son in Syria and fell into a deep depression. She was so overwhelmed with her emotions she wrote over the entire inside of her caravan.
Luckily she found a women's center run by the IRC in the camp where she received counseling. She was eventually hired as a volunteer and has made it her life mission to rescue women in her own situation from their isolation and grief.
Please note that while no one is hungry in Za'atari itself, this is not the case for millions in need inside of Syria, surrounding countries and even outside of the camp in Jordan. This is the largest refugee crisis the world has seen in the last 20 years.
Livingonone9 karma2014-02-10 18:18:11 UTC
By far the most challenging aspect of living in the camp is hearing the trauma our neighbors have gone through. It is heart wrenching, we never know what to say and there is no way we will ever be able to share their burden... it is so important that people have creative outlets here in the camp to deal with this trauma. School, art, music and cooking have been some of the most powerful outlets we have seen.
Livingonone8 karma2014-02-10 18:55:28 UTC
Most of the aid workers in the camp are Jordanian (many of whom have Palestinian roots since 50% of Jordan's population is Palestinian or have Palestinian heritage). Many of the workers can empathize deeply with the Syrian situation given their backgrounds as refugees themselves. Jordan has been incredibly welcoming to refugees throughout history... Palestinians refugees, Iraqi refugees etc.
Livingonone8 karma2016-06-20 18:08:32 UTC
The relationships with the people were by far my favorite and the most rewarding part of the experience. We got to meet women like Um Ali - who was collecting trash around the camp and weaving it into baskets and art to sell. She even started teaching other kids to do it. When you see stories like that, you realize that the refugees themselves really are the solution and the ones we need to invest in. You can see a snippet from Um Ali's story on the Atlantic today too: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/487073/a-day-in-the-life-zaatari-refugee-camp/
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