When I was 21, I went abroad for a semester to study Arabic. I went to Jordan with no knowledge of The Syrian crisis, no empathy and no real love for the people of Syria. I went to Jordan a blank canvas.
During my time there, a friend introduced me to an organization called Dar Al Yasmin that helps Syrian refugees in Zaatari Camp. Every Friday they organized for volunteers to go spend time with the refugee children and some of the less fortunate Jordanian children. The relationship the older children had with their younger siblings was so beautiful and protective. They’d make sure each other were okay and enjoying themselves. The older siblings would make sure their little brothers or sisters had clean hands after painting and could open their snacks.
Some of the boys were incredibly tough, a little difficult; however, that’s to be expected after you’ve seen their scars, wounds and burns. A lady I spoke to whilst I was there told me about her home city in Homs as she let me hold her beautiful, peaceful baby girl. My Arabic is of course limited, but I managed to understand her telling me how Homs has supposedly been improving. I didn’t quite know how to say ‘I hope you can return soon’ and so I said ‘Inshallah’ knowing she’d understand what I meant. Before I could finish saying it, she replied, ‘Inshallah, Inshallah’ looking up with such pain on her face.
On one occasion, we did painting with the children. They illustrated their hopes and dreams. Many painted homes, cars, trees, a dog; showing their hope of a normal childhood. I asked one little boy what he wrote about the drawing of his house and he said ‘Bismilaheh e rahman o Rahim.’ After all these children had been through, they still held faith. The beautiful little girls in their dirty dresses and stained shirts would come and sit with me, play with my hair, kiss my cheeks, touch my earrings. I remember a sweet little Syrian girl named Lara who buttoned my top button on my shirt and then offered me her crisps.
One thing I noticed about the children was they had almost nothing but family, and some weren’t even fortunate enough to have that, but they were always so happy and full of life.
When I was their age, I had delicate, little white sandals; their feet were covered with dust. I’d get taken to the doctors for having a cold; they had burns, injuries and wounds that had likely received very little medical attention. When I was their age I had a real home in the country I was born in, surrounded by love and peace and stability.
The children who I was blessed to meet, pulled at my heartstrings. They’ve stayed in my heart and on my mind since the moment I met them. As a young university student, surrounded by distractions, it’s difficult to be passionate about situations you don’t even really know about. I had no knowledge of the Syrian crisis, no empathy for the people of Syria, no real love for the people of Syria, until I went to Jordan. I went to Jordan a blank canvas, and came out covered with little Syrian handprints.