Skip to content

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 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


Receiving an award for for my service at the Hemma Celebration

In my first blog post I discussed how you should “trust God, but always tie your camel,” a reference in Muslim culture to the idea that although it’s good to hope for the best and go with the flow, it’s your responsibility to make the effort and take steps in a certain direction if you want something to happen. Before I left America, I raised funds for my time abroad. These funds were to be used for a research project I hoped to undertake in Jordan. Before I traveled, I created a “tangible goals” list, but I had left enough room for flexibility in case the unexpected occurred, which is actually what happened.

As I mentioned in my last post, through my work at Project Amal ou Salam, I met a Syrian man. It turns out that his brother owned a Syrian volunteer group called “Hemma,” a group which brings both physical relief and relief in the form of training and human development to Syrian refugees. I attended an awards ceremony they held for their one-year anniversary, where they recognized me for the work I had done with Syrians in Project Amal ou Salam. As I saw all of the work they were doing, and did some research on my own, I realized that I had found a perfect outlet to connect what I was learning in class to what I wanted to do in the field. In my coursework, I study economic development, and how that occurs through human development. I met with the leaders of Hemma, and together we came up with a project.

This project involves training Syrian refugees here in Amman, ages 10-15, to volunteer. Although this seems very simple from the eyes of a westerner, the concept of ‘civil society’ is something that is not prevalent in this culture. This project will train Syrian refugee students for one month on how to volunteer. Then, they will create volunteer projects on their own, and will be able to implement it through the help of Hemma. I met with the leaders of Hemma group all throughout last week to work out every part of this project, as we figured out the logistics, the reasoning behind it, the impact it would leave and how to make it sustainable so that it could continue on into the future. The funds I raised for my research will be used to jump-start this long-term/sustainable project.

Brainstorming and project planning

The goal of this project is to teach these students a new skill for life. They will then have the opportunity to be their own leaders and create their own projects, which will be empowering them. As their volunteer projects come to life, we will be documenting them and spreading them around through different outlets, including online, newspapers and TV media. This will spread the word about the project even more, attracting not only donors (which we need to continue to make this project sustainable), but also other young people who will see the value behind the work that these young people are engaging in. With the current civil war in Syria, it is not feasible to just have refugees come into the country without properly integrating them into society. This will contribute not just to Syrians, but Jordanian society as well, as the hope of the project is for it to spread to Jordanian students as well. With this project, we hope to increase the lack of civil society in the country, strengthen institutions, and instill the values of public service in whole generation. All of this counts as human development, which in turn, will hopefully lead to economic development.

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.

Talking with Syrian refugee children

This week I had a truly eye-opening experience. After months of waiting, the week had finally arrived where I would travel north to the Syrian border to work with Syrian refugee children through Project Amal ou Salam.

Project Amal ou Salam is a week long camp for Syrian Refugee children. We had 20 volunteers fly in from around the world to participate. In this week, I worked with close to 1,000 Syrian Refugee children. I really had no idea what I was in for before the week began, but now that it has ended, it is time for me to reflect on what just happened.

I was a team leader for “Fareek al-Ahmar” (Team Red). Between me and one other girl, we were assigned to take care of up to 50 Syrian Refugee children each day, between the ages of 5-13. I have held many internships in my life dealing with international affairs, but this was the first time I actually found myself in the field, dealing first hand with refugees. Every day, we arrived early morning at the venue we had rented out for the camp. The children would arrive and we split them up based on their age groups. We took them around all day to different workshops including sports, photography, art, music and team building/trust building. A lot of these kids don’t even go to school, and this was the one-day they had a chance to experience the life of a child. It was a day of empowerment for them, as we asked them to rebuild Syria in art class, taught them about viewing one issue from different perspectives in photography class, and more. At the end of each day, we I was met with hard goodbyes from the kids, as they made me promise that I would see them again the next day.

Every day, little Syrian refugees came in from all walks of life, but they had one thing in common: they all had their childhoods ripped away from them. I was so shocked to discover so many things. I noticed kids without limbs, kids with scars all over their face, kids in extreme distress. Throughout the days, we would feed the children breakfast, lunch and a snack, yet many of them kept coming up to me and telling me they were hungry. I found out later that they were quietly saving the food we were giving them to bring home to their siblings. I found out that many of them did not have both parents, or any parents. I witnessed with my own eyes six year olds screaming chants about bringing down the regime, bringing down Bashaar Assad.

As I was talking to these children, I gained more and more knowledge about their backgrounds. Engaging in conversations with these little kids, I learned how much they knew about the world. They knew all about the war, they knew about nationalism, they knew about pain, hunger, death and suffering. They have been through more than any human should ever go through, and at such a young age. Their ‘backpacks’ that they carried were small black totes with the title “UNHCR” written across them. These were the refugees; these were the kids that were in such a devastating place in life that aid had to be delivered.

One thing I noticed as well was that these kids never smiled in the photos I took. The only time they did smile was when I caught them actually being happy. It’s very interesting since we grew up our lives learning that you should always smile in pictures. These kids only smile when they actually feel the emotion. I feel so lucky that I could have been a part of this project to bring them that emotion, and I hope that there are many more projects like these in the future to help empower the youth of Syria and give them hope for the future.

Playing with the children