Making up for lost time
For many of the Syrian refugees who have found a safe haven in neighbouring countries, making up for time lost to the conflict is an ongoing issue. From children like Fatima and Yazen - desperate for education in their new host communities - to shopkeepers like Hamid and Khalil, trying to use their trades from Syria to make a living, everyone is hoping some kind of normality will return.
Ten-year-old Fatima lives in Jordan’s newest refugee camp, Azraq. Next week, she will start back at school after a long two years without education.
"I remember that I had to move schools. My new school was nice, but I didn’t really know anyone. I wasn’t there for long. About two months later my new school was bombed too. I don’t know if it was an accident or on purpose."
Since then, two consecutive schools she has been attending have been bombed. Fatima and her family left Syria for Jordan, but she still remembers the moment when the second school was hit. "I remember the same sound, the ‘boom’ of the bomb hitting. There was more broken glass, but there was also a lot of smoke and fire. As I ran out, I saw a boy who was injured; he was bleeding and lying on the ground. I found out later that other children had died, but I was new so I didn’t know them."
Despite all that she's witnessed, Fatima is looking forward to being back at school and still dreams of being a teacher when she grows up.
"I start back at school next week. I’m not sure what grade I’ll be or what I’ll learn, but I’m very grateful to be back. My mother would like me to be a pharmacist, and my father wants me to be a doctor, but I would like to be a teacher. I’d like to help children like myself to learn, but only if it’s in a safe place.”
Like Fatima, 13-year-old Yazen and his family moved to Azraq only a few weeks ago. The teenager loves football and is nervous about going to a new school and making friends.
"I don’t know what happened to my neighbours, or the friends that I used to play with back home. I miss them a lot. If I saw them again I’d be so happy, I’m worried about them. I would ask how they were, and tell them about what life is like here in Azraq," he reflects.
Yazen hopes to make friends to play football with when he starts school next week.
"I’ve only been here for two weeks and I haven’t made any friends yet. School hasn’t started for the year so I haven’t met any of the other children. I just hope that when I start this new school, I make some friends to play football with at lunchtime.”
The shopkeepers of Za’atari
Sixteen-year-old Ahmed works in a makeshift bread shop on Za’atari’s Market Street - ironically known as Champs-Elysees after the exclusive French boulevard. Here, families buy all the supplies they need for daily life, including the staple item of many Syrian refugees’ diets - bread.
“I don’t remember how long I’ve been working at the bakery, but I’ve been living in Za’atari for just over two years," he says.
On an average day, Ahmed finds himself making around 300 pieces of bread a day. He now sees the job as a way of giving himself a future, having had much of his education halted by the Syrian conflict.
"I stopped going to school in Syria because of the bombing, it was too dangerous to attend. When I arrived here, I had been out of school for a while and I didn’t want to go back. The owners of this bread shop are friends of my parents, so they gave me a job."
44-year-old Khalil and his family had been living in the camp for ten months without a job when he managed to open up a shop on the bustling Market Street - a symbol of how permanent life in Za’atari has become.
"Support from charities help, but people need more money, it’s not enough. And when the aid is cut, families really struggle, I knew I had to find my own source of income," he explains.
“In my store I sell lots of things, but mostly groceries for the people that live here. I sell different types of nuts, potato chips, ground coffee, and even non-alcoholic beer."
World Vision's response to the refugee crisis is expanding, and now includes supporting refugees in Serbia, while the greatest needs and relief efforts remain focused in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Approximately two million refugees, internally displaced people and vulnerable host community members have been assisted through interventions including food, water, sanitation, health, child-friendly spaces and remedial education. To find out how we can help, visit worldvision.org.uk/refugees.