Syrian Refugee Stories: A Life in Limbo # 3
The 3rd episode of “A Life in Limbo” series of stories that follows the lives of two Syrian refugee families, one living in Zaatari camp and the other in a Jordanian host community, presents 14 year old Fatima, the eldest daughter of the Youssef family, living in Zaatari camp.
This week we return to the Youssef family in Zaatari camp to find out what life is like for Dima’s eldest child, 14-year-old Fatima.
Being 14 in a dusty desert refugee camp
Fatima came to Jordan with her family about a year ago. She is old enough to understand how her life in Syria was and how the war has changed it. When asked about what she wishes for her life here, she sharply replies: ‘A library. I like reading a lot and life can get a bit dull because we don’t have access to many books in our district.’
Back to school
The summer is over and schools all over Jordan have re-opened for the new academic year. Ever since the Youssef family moved closer to one of the three schools in Zaatari, attending the classes has started to be part of Fatima’s normal daily routine.She is a 9th grader this year and is happy to return to her favourite subject, Arabic and to be with all of her friends again.
The formal and informal programmes conducted by various aid organisations operating in the camp, provide school routines to children who would otherwise struggle to gain access to education. Initiatives like ACTED’s Road Safety Programme also stand to showcase the benefits of education as children are engaged, learning, sharing tasks and have creative outlets through such activities.
The Road Safety Campaign: Something to talk about every day
Three times a week, Fatima attends the activities conducted by ACTED under the Road Safety Campaign, a UNICEF funded programme. Aimed at raising awareness on road safety through a community based approach, the programme instills a positive attitude towards school in children, as well as raising their self-esteem, developing their personal development path and the way in which children relate to their family.
Fatima’s mother, Dima said: ”My daughters were angry and shy when we first came to Al Zaatari over a year ago. They could not attend school as it was too far across the camp. We have since moved near a school and now, Fatima is much more talkative and enjoys telling me about what she learned in school. The Road Safety Programme really helped to build her confidence and now she looks forward to going every week. She also loves sharing what she learned with her brothers and cousins and she always has something to tell me about when she is back from school.”
I like to read stories
Fatima is does not play with toys anymore. She helps her mother around the house, taking turns, every two days, after school, with her younger sister. She likes to play and talk with her sister, brothers and cousins, to watch TV in the evening and even to weave small clothing items for the young ones in her family.
Yet her favorite thing in the whole world is to read stories. She does not have a storybook and the library is outside of her district.
“My favorite story is the Little Prince. I read it before leaving Syria. I like the main character because even though he loses everything he has, he is still determined to be good and help others”, she said.
While early marriage is becoming a worrying phenomenon within the Syrian refugee communities, Fatima does not hesitate to state her first dream:
“I want to be…”married” when I grow up”.
Yet when asked about role models, she changes her opinion in an instant and says she wants to be like her favorite teacher in school.