Azraq refugee camp, four years on: view from a CARE staff member
Ann Mazen, 28, has been working with CARE since Azraq camp for Syrian refugees was set up in Jordan four years ago.
She has seen the camp, its residents and CARE’s work evolve and adapt to the protracted crisis. She says:
From the day we started working in Azraq camp, we conducted surveys that showed us that women needed vocational training. We specialised in this type of activity and created a recreational and self-development programme for women.
"It included sewing, knitting, cosmetology and making accessories. Our programme was in such high demand that we had to allocate a much bigger space to accommodate all participants.
"Women who took part in the programme became more self-confident and economically empowered. These were talented women who just needed some support."
I started working at the camp’s waiting area, before moving to recreational activities and self-development programmes for refugees. I gained experience through my work in the field. At the beginning, there were barely any services provided. Now, there is even electricity in some parts of the camp.
"The programmes and interventions CARE provides have expanded as well. We used to face a problem in reaching women in the camp. By our fourth year, women’s participation in our programmes has increased tremendously."
Still, the needs are immense. The camp is very hot, dry and dusty in the summer and very cold in the winter.
"Refugees face harsh living conditions. There is no transportation and there is only one hospital, where people have to walk long distances on foot to get to."
Safety and privacy is a real problem for many women in the camp. For example, the latrines for women and men, though separate, are very close to each other. This presents a huge challenge, especially for women who are in the camp on their own.
"Another problem is work. For mothers, it is very difficult to find work outside the camp and leave the children behind. This is why women need to be supported and empowered."
CARE has worked on empowering women and girls by building their skills and giving them general support. When women believe in their strength, they become the beacon of light that guides the rest of the community.
Azraq refugee camp: CARE International's work
In Azraq, CARE runs four community centres that serve as a place for refugees to gather and undertake recreational, social and awareness raising activities, as well as receiving information on main services in the camp. It is a “one stop shop” for refugees where case management and referral services are also provided.
Remaining active is central to the mental and emotional welfare of camp residents and as such, ensuring camps are equipped with places where refugees can gather and engage in social activities is of critical importance. These centres also include libraries and day care spaces for children under the age of 5, which enable women to engage in livelihoods programmes, sporting events, a reading programme for girls, and skills training, i.e. language, computer, tailoring, and art courses.
The community centres also contribute to cash for work programmes, which provides an income for semi-skilled, skilled, and highly skilled refugees.
Additionally, the centres provide an e-learning platform for refugees and safe spaces for children.
CARE has 47 staff members, and 85 Syrian and 26 Jordanian volunteers, working in the camp which hosts 55,000 Syrian refugees.
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