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By kfarishta

After another month of travel, I have finally arrived in Nepal—my last stop. Before arriving in Kathmandu, we had a very impactful experience in Jordan. I am still left with many unanswerable questions and a yearning to do more.

Upon arriving to Amman, our country coordinators told us to “put on our refugee caps.” This was their metaphoric way of saying: Jordan is a country of refugees. You cannot understand the political, economic, and social factors if you do not understand and recognize the refugee situation. Within the first few weeks of the program, we visited Al-Baqaah Camp (the largest and oldest UNRWA Palestinian Refugee Camp), Al-Za’atari Camp (the second largest refugee camp in the world and the largest Syria exodus settlement), and the Al-Hashimi Al-Shamali region (the largest urban settlement of newly arriving Iraqi refugees in Amman).

Visiting Za’atari gave me a critical perspective of the refugee camp conditions and provided meaningful insight on how family structures affected support, security and stability. Food supply coupons were provided based on a formula constructed on age, gender, and necessity. If a family member was missing, the entire family bore the burden of limited resources that could help sustain the entire family. As a result, family structures, which were divided within the camp system or separated between the Syrian and Jordanian border, required their children to engage in labor to generate supplemental income for the family’s day-to-day living expenses. In particular, we met with a mother, her son (13 years old) and daughter (11 years old). They came from the Dara rural area of Syria where the Syrian crisis had started. The husband was a government soldier in Syria, but during the conflict when he retracted his allegiance to Bashar’s regime, he was deserted and sent back to Syria. Consequently, without him as a father figure who primarily earned the income in the family, the son was forced into labor. He pushed carts for 1 Jordanian Dinar for over two kilometers, bearing 50 kilograms of weight. This prevented his access to education because he was burdened with providing for his family. The daughter, when asked about her father cried and could not answer. The mother said, although the daughter has the chance go to school, without money to pay for a uniform she is unable to go. The mother noted that without her husband the family could not survive in the camp much longer.

We also met with Palestinians who escaped in the exoduses of 1948 and 1967. The conditions had marginally improved over the decades and the right to return home was a distant illusion. Food stipends were halved. A single mother we met was struggling to make ends meet for her disabled son and herself. In the Iraqi settlement, the survivors fled the atrocious and inhumane torture from ISIS. One woman accounted that her brother was executed with a nail drilled through his chest. Escape was the only way out of violence.

What is happening in the Middle Eastern region is a huge burden for host nations and conflict nations alike. There is painstakingly clear evidence of genocide, crimes against humanity, etc. There is immense injustice and immeasurable human suffering. Such human rights violations will be tumultuous for progress to occur. How can the international community practice its ‘responsibility to protect’ to stop genocide?

Thank you for reading. I hope all of us can open our minds and comprehend this grave human rights condition and also keep these resilient people in our hearts.

Genocide cannot continue.

By heatherlgilbert

Last weekend I had the opportunity to join a group, known as the Peace Makers, on a trip to the DMZ. This volunteer group is a coalition of international students who dedicate time to peace discussion and local service activism. It was fascinating to hear the perspectives of students from around the world: Sweeden, Japan, France, Australia and more.

The experience of looking over at North Korea was surreal. So close to South Korea and yet so different. The juxtaposition of the flourishing South and the impoverished North is shocking. This border is not just the manifestation of separate governments, it also remains a reminder of the division of family and friends.

As the semester comes to an end, I am thankful for everything that I have seen and done and the wonderfully diverse people that I have met.  I will conclude my blog with this last post a reminder that there is so much that can be changed in the world and that everyone can make a difference. Thank you.

By heatherlgilbert

 I am back in South Korea where there is a growing effort to aid North Korean refugees. Refugees have been escaping North Korea since the height of North Korea’s famine in the 1990s. In 2013, US State Department estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 North Koreans have crossed the North Korean border to China, while other non-governmental organizations estimate the number is closer to 300,000. Escaping the North, however, is only one step in their process to freedom. Once the refugees have successfully crossed the border they must adopt to their new and vastly different environments. Working with these courageous survivors is an unforgettable opportunity.

In South Korea, there are several efforts to help North Korean refugees. One of these efforts includes the development of a school for North Korean child refugees. Appropriately named, Mulmangcho, or forget me not in Korean, this school takes in children to teach and care for during their difficult transition to life in South Korea.  Education is particularly important for these kids who lag behind their South Korean counterparts in their studies.

Most of the children, living and studying at the school, are orphans. The lucky ones have one parent but rarely both. Nevertheless, as the name of the school indicates, the children are not forgotten and on every Saturday, volunteers come to teach English.

By Dominique Bonessi

They were waiting for three hours.

In Mafraq, just a 12 minute drive from the Syrian border, sitting in crowded oven-like room refugees--women, men, and children—needed clothes.

One-by-one they were escorted by a volunteer to the tables piled with lightly used pants, skirts, hijabs, shirts, shoes, and anything else the volunteers had collected.  The flee market was an organized system with a section for men, women, boys, girls, shoes, and bed sheets.  Many of the refugees were women picking up clothes for a family of two girls and two boys with a baby on the way.

I was working the hijab table, unfortunately, it was the smallest table in the flea market of clothes.  Each woman in the family was able to select a scarf, but we only had one box and a bag of hijabs.  After an hour we had to start turning women away looking for scarves.  Eventually, I gained the confidence to escort a few women to find clothing for their children and husbands.  Many of them just needed the essentials, which made me really rethink the amount of clothes and extra things I don’t need on a daily basis.

After two hours crowds were restless and started pushing on the makeshift barrier between the flea market and the waiting area for the refugees.  Women and men entered the store clenching small blue books given to them by the UN.  One volunteer explained to me that these books were to receive help and services by the local governorate of Jordan.

My volunteer experience was with a group of 50 engineering students from the University of Jordan devoting their labor day to serving the fellow Arabs.  These young college students from Amman who have everything at their finger-tips realize how fortunate they are with the ability to attend a university, have a roof over their heads, and clothes on their back.

Whoever said Arab pride and nationalism were dead has never seen a well-oiled machine quiet like this one.  The truth is, any day the shoe could be on the other foot—no pun intended—and it may be Syrians reaching out to Jordanians to supply clothes, food, or clean drinking water.  Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians may be the places they comes from, but at heart they have a greater common denominator as Arabs.

By numzzz123

IMG_3248Working with Syrian Refugee Children in Project Amal ou Salam has been eye opening in more ways than one. Through subtle signs and mannerisms throughout the week, I was able to read into their lives. I could see their poverty in the way they quietly saved the food we gave them, to bring it home to their brothers and sisters. I saw their vulnerability and hurt in the way they held on to each other, in a bond of understanding none of us could comprehend. Many without parents, I saw the lack of nurturing in the way they clung on to the volunteers throughout the day, longing to receive the attention they deserve.

We took them to sports class where they learned about unity, photography where they learned about viewing one event from different perspectives, to art where they “rebuilt Syria,” music where they participated in harmonizing, and trust/team building, where they utilized and embraced the power of standing by each other. I knew the camp’s efforts had left an impact, as the kids made us promise to come back again at the end of each day.

Project Amal ou Salam is in the stage of reflection now. We have been discussing what went well, what can be improved for future camps, and what kind of impact it left on us as well. The next camp will be held in August at the Syrian border in Lebanon. Now that I’ve finally worked with this group first hand, it is time for me to take the next step.

Earlier this week, I met with the owner of Hemmah Volunteering group, who is the brother of one of the volunteers I worked with at Project Amal ou Salam. Hemmah Volunteering Group is a social working trust group, which helps people in emergency and development. The Hemmah Group does a lot of aid relief for Syrian refugees all over Jordan, from providing logistical support, physical support emotional support, and more. The goal of Hemmah is to not just to bring about short-term relief, but with the trained psychologists as part of the team, they work towards a long-term sustainable recovery. One of the biggest problems dealing with refugees is the fact that many development organizations give them what they think the refugees want, rather then taking time to talk to the people and figure out what they actually need and want. After my experience working with 1,000 Syrian refugee children in one week, I will now have the chance to speak one on one with families and get a more in depth understanding about their situations over a longer period of time.


There is no immediate end of this conflict in sight, but the victims, especially the little ones, of the Syrian war are alive and every day they face struggle. They are the future of Syria and more efforts like this are needed to empower the youth. The future of the world lies within the youth, and for a peaceful tomorrow, we need to create more efforts to instill hope and education in them today.