Syrian refugees: “We are proud of who we are”

By: 
Barbara Jackson
Sahab, pictured with her son, lived in a tent on the outskirts of Amman in Jordan after fleeing from Syria. “This is not the place where I wanted my children to grow up. I want them to have a better future. But for now this is all I can give to them,” she said. (Sahab interviewed in October 2013; other interviews August 2015)

We not only hope, but plan that we can go back soon, and that we will rebuild our lives for our families and our children. We are proud of who we are and we want our homeland back.

This is one typical message we heard from Syrian refugees living in urban settlements in Jordan during a visit in August (2015). They were young men and women dedicating their energies to help others in even more dire situations than themselves.

Amazingly, they continue to hold a ray of hope within themselves and to share it with others, as they work with the CARE teams to identify sources of services for those who are lost and bewildered. Many have not only left their home behind, but also their confidence, their sense of identity and – maybe most importantly – their belief that there will eventually be an end to the gravest, largest humanitarian situation since the Second World War.  

For now, I am so happy to work for CARE as a volunteer and to help my Syrian brothers and sisters in these terribly dark times when we don’t know how we will pay next month’s rent, how we will pay for our fathers’ medicine, what we will do as our food vouchers get cut by more than half and will disappear.

So said another of the Syrian volunteers, who added: “My work with CARE helps me to give hope to others. It keeps my mind and body active and it lets hope stay alive in me.”

We met a very soft-spoken man, primary carer for a total of 15 people, including his four children, his deceased brother’s six children and his widow, his wife and his two siblings who are living with disabilities. “I don't know what to ask or hope for, there is nothing left,” he said. 

Yet as we left his temporary home where he has deliberately kept himself indoors for the past two months so as not to spend any money, he hurries out the door to say to our translator:

Please tell them thank you for letting me talk, for listening, I feel better just for that. Thank you.

A simple act of listening to such a heartbreaking story, one which can be multiplied almost 12 million times, seems such a paltry act of kindness in the face of such tragedy, but it is this one man’s sense of appreciation and relief for that day.

The news is full of the impact of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are fleeing this part of the world to seek solace and safety in Europe, risking their lives and that of their families – and we see too many dying in the process.

Debate rages in Brussels and within and between the European capitals as to how many refugees should be allowed in and how these countries can best support such immense needs. It is high time that there is a more concerted effort to support increasing numbers of refugees and to do so without putting them at peril as they seek safe haven.

However, we must remember that Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are hosts to nearly four million Syrian refugees. These countries have been generous hosts over the past several years, resulting in an almost unfathomable burden to their own systems as well as to their own communities.  

As I travel back to my home in Geneva and work with my colleagues here to intensify our efforts to support Syrians in need both within Syria and in the neighbouring countries, as well as potentially in Europe and elsewhere, I keep hearing the voice of the young man from D’ara who I met last week. He was one of the first to peacefully protest against the Assad regime and then saw his friends and neighbours being killed as a result. His voice echoes in my ears:

We want and will go home. We just need to be given the chance. This war must end.

SYRIA CRISIS APPEAL

Barbara Jackson's picture

Barbara Jackson is Humanitarian Director for CARE International – Read her blog posts