Today we visited an informal settlement outside the city of Mafraq. Mafraq is about an hour outside from Amman where we are staying. In this informal settlement, there is a community of Syrian refugees who have chosen to leave the refugee camps because they could not afford to stay there— for a variety of reasons. These families live in constant fear that the police will come and deport them so they live a bit far from where people can see them easily.
Ahmed is a man that lives in the community with the refugees and he volunteers 7 days a week to help teach kids and play games with them. The classroom we visited was a very small tent that seemed very dull from the outside. But to our surprise, the tent was filled with colorful student and teacher made decorations hanging from the ceiling and walls. There were about 40 students mainly from kindergarten to third grade, but there were also older kids listening in. The kids were so eager to greet us and it was amazing seeing how energetic they were.
After spending some time in the classroom tent, we walked around and saw the tent where everyone showers, a couple of tents where people live, a chicken coup, and a mini mosque. After our tour, we played soccer with the kids and volunteers.
After the game we went to the Mercy Corps Center in Mafraq to hear stories from Manal, a Syrian woman refugee, and Heydar, an Iraqi man refugee. Although both of their situations are difficult, it struck me to see how hopeful they are for the future. Both have helped with several organizations that work to help refugees so they discussed the feeling of needing to help them get the aid they need. Manal talked about how gender plays into how she is treated in Jordan, especially because of the work that she does and her decision to pursue education and go for her masters. Their hope for the future and resilience was a privilege to hear about.
Before we departed Mafraq, we learned how to dance Dabke which you do by holding hands. The music was so fun and upbeat so that was cool to learn. Here are some of the highlights from the day:
Shukran aa Ma Salaama! (Thank you and Goodbye!)