Posted by Jane Best
Alex Treves and I are currently visiting projects funded by RIJ in Turkey and Jordan. We will also stop in Lebanon.
These countries are host to thousands, indeed millions, of refugees from Syria and they are struggling with the provision of resources, security and general logistical factors relating to the huge increase in population.
Our first stop is Jordan where we visited the vast Zaatari refugee camp yesterday, 14 March.
As you would imagine, Jordan is a dry country but being spring time we did see some green as we drove to the camp through amazing countryside. You see the camp as you near – spreading out across the open land. It was a windy day and therefore quite dusty adding to the impression of a floating landscape.
We were hosted by the staff in the JEN Jordan office. Their team in Zaatari camp has produced a magazine called ‘The Road’ for the camp population and RIJ funded training of women journalists who have produced a women’s magazine called ‘Yasmin’.
There were still some UN tents around but most people are now housed in what they called ‘caravans’ but look like simple shipping containers. They are better than tents but far from ideal – hot in the sunshine and very cold in the winter months. Many residents show the usual resourcefulness you see in other camps, expanding their homes in a variety of ways with sheeting and decorating them with amazing art.
We met the women who had participated in the journalism workshop led by Hada and we were given the copy of Yasmin. The women told us of their training and their work on the magazine; how they have overcome shyness and discovered what they can actually achieve. They feel some freedom in being able to express themselves through the articles in the magazine. This endorses my theory that projects should provide opportunities to ‘recover and re-discover’.
One woman described it: “It is our window on the world”.
Khaldia who is now deputy editor working with Hada said: “I come from a conservative society in Syria and now I can use these skills when I return and make a difference for women living there.”
They all commented on how they had learnt to express themselves, to overcome reserve, ask questions and discover that they can actually influence others.
The magazine brings people together and in some unexpected ways: Amina said “I saw someone in the magazine that I know, but I didn’t know she is in the camp.”
After a brief graduation ceremony, we went out with the women to distribute the magazine to one section of the camp. I could see from the confident way the women knocked on doors and handed out the magazine that they have uncovered their potential through this project.
I hope it will continue to be their “Window on the World”.