Visit at the Zaatari camp in Jordan

In the spring of 2016, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland donated nearly 70 thousand PLN to help refugees.

The funds had been collected in churches throughout Poland and dedicated to one specific project carried out by the Lutheran World Federation in the Za’atari camp in Jordan.

Presiding bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland Rev. Jerzy Samiec and its spokeswoman Agnieszka Godfrejów-Tarnogórska visited the Zaatari camp on 25 September 2016. During the visit they were informed about projects implemented in the LWF Peace Oasis and the reality of life in the camp, and met with one Syrian family.

More than 650 thousand refugees from Syria are registered in Jordan. More than 75 percent live in the so called local host communities. The others, who arrived in Jordan in consequence of the now 6 year war in Syria, are staying in three camps, the largest of them is called Za’atari and shelters 79,895 people (as of September 2016, UNHCR). With no chance for employment, many live below the minimum subsistence level, at the same time looking for additional work.
The LWF has been active in Za’atari since the camp was established in 2012. Its assistance consists in supplying sanitation and hygiene articles as well as heaters, but mostly in militating conflicts, peace building, providing life-skills training and recreation.

The Peace Oasis, an area for young people aged 14 to 30, was established in 2013. It trains young people in coping skills, non-violent communication, mediation, negotiation and problem solving. Until the present day, the project has been providing various training programmes to men and women (in separate groups), including: sewing, hairdressing and barbering, computer and language skills etc., as well as giving them the opportunity to develop their gifts by playing instruments or football. All this is done to counteract the feeling among the refugees that they are wasting their time and to develop skills for their future.

However, assistance provided by the LWF in the Za’atari camp also includes food packages (food coupons distributed in the camp are insufficient), school uniforms and school kits for girls, or actions to improve the sanitary conditions. Back when the camp was created, people arriving in it would use a common kitchen/dining space and public toilets. It led to many conflicts so it was decided that every living unit should have its own small kitchen and bathroom. After that, the psychological comfort and privacy of the inhabitants have considerably improved.

Due to the fact that refugees have no access to regular employment, there are projects in Za’atari that enable them to work. Many Syrians volunteer in aid organisations, for which they receive a small remuneration. Almost five thousand inhabitants of Za’atari (55 percent male and 23 percent female) participate in the cash-for-work programme in which they gain temporary employment and make small amounts of money.

Za’atari is hardly the greatest place on earth. It is a camp, a temporary dwelling place, but at the same time it has become a city with streets, shop and houses. Families who live there try to function more or less normally, they arrange their caravans as if they were flats, children use playgrounds, go to school, every family has a bicycle. They would like to go back home, but they are not sure if it will ever be possible.