World Refugee Day: Similar people, different lives

By: 
CARE

Amal is a young woman from Syria, now living as a refugee in Jordan.

Like Amal, more than 68 million people worldwide are on the run. They can no longer decide for themselves what they want to become or how they want to live.

Amal has lost everything. That could have hit me or you as well. Please do not look away. Please listen to Amal’s story, writes Mia Veigel, a volunteer with CARE in Germany.

I never thought that I would marry by the age of 17. Without the war my life would have run so differently. – Amal

Amal is from Deraa, in the south of Syria. Like me, she also had a joyful childhood and grew up in a neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone. She loved to go to school, was always the best in her class, and dreamed about becoming a nurse one day.

But her life changed dramatically when an attack on a bus full of children led her parents to decide that it was no longer safe for her to go to school. During this difficult time some of her classmates were kidnapped or suddenly just disappeared. Amal’s parents then decided to marry her to a man who they thought could take care of her. “I didn’t know the man I married,” she says.

Aged 17, she was married and became pregnant. While she was pregnant, her family fled to Jordan. When they arrived, the family, like many other refugees, received support in a CARE community centre. Amal’s family received financial help to start with and were put in touch with other organisations helping refugees.

A huge gap between us

There is a strange feeling in the air as Amal invites me into the sparely furnished living room of her home. Amal and I are both uncertain and I feel almost like an invader in her home. We are close, but I can still feel the huge gap between us, because her life and all she’s gone through seems so unfamiliar and unimaginable for me.

Amal shows me pictures of her home in Syria and of a uniformed men. ”That’s my husband. He died two and a half years ago during an explosion in Syria.” While she says this, the door opens and a little boy runs into the room.

Amal’s face lights up. Her son is full of energy and cannot sit still for a moment. I notice the affectionate look on her face, but also how hard it is for her to calm him down. Since I don’t speak any Arabic, I only find out later that he can hardly speak, at the age of almost 5 years.

Later, Amal tells me that despite the escape and her loss, she still hopes to be able to study one day. “After moving from the Zataari refugee camp to the city, I could finally complete high school,” she tells me proudly. Nevertheless, when she tried to enrol in university, she discovered that it costs 12.000 euros – money she doesn’t have.

I have all the possibilities – what does she have?

It’s hard for me to ask her if she wants to marry again one day and move out of her parent’s house. “I have already lost enough time during my life; from now on, I will spend my time just on me and my son,” she says. I know that in her culture few men would marry a woman who was already married and has a son.

Again, I feel a great gap between us. I am free from all constraints and have endless possibilities in my future.

We are almost the same age and yet our lives couldn’t be more different.

I have not experienced all the terrible things she has seen, and when I am back in Germany, back in my daily routine, it will just be a matter of time until our encounter fades away in my memory.

I can fade out all the terrible things in this world, but Amal is confronted with it every day. Stories like Amal’s aren’t individual cases in Jordan, much less in the world.

In the Arabic language, the meaning of the name ‘Amal’ is ‘Hope’, which seems to be the last thing that remains for so many of the 68 million refugees and displaced people worldwide.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.