This last cold and rainy Thursday I visited with Syrian refugee families whom Mercy Corps has assisted in the northern Jordanian town of Mafraq. Neighboring the Syrian-Jordanian border, Mafraq is now hosting around 50,000 Syrians who fled their home country. Many of the families can only afford unfinished housing, some literally without kitchens or roofs.
Mercy Corps staff members, Hasam and Alaa, and I were welcomed into the Al-Awad family’s recently rehabilitated home — the result of Mercy Corps’ home winterization project. Omar, his wife Hyam, and their three young children, Hammam, Abd Aljaddar and Tebah, escaped to Jordan after violence erupted last summer in their home city of Homs.
They left empty-handed during a time of “panic and fear that had spread throughout the city” as the number of injuries and deaths escalated. After a difficult journey to the Jordanian border, including carrying their children for two hours in the blazing July heat, they found their way to Mafraq.
With scarce funds, the family rented a home without a heater, hot water or a finished kitchen. Omar continued to cover the rent by street-vending food packages that they received from humanitarian organizations.
As the seasons began to change, the colder weather became a concern for the health of their children, and then rain flooded their home. Omar explained that they “had nothing prepared for winter — no clothes, blankets or means of heating.”
Mercy Corps’ rehabilitation project made the family's home livable by constructing a working kitchen, and adding a hot water heater, doors, plaster and safe electrical wiring. They also received a winterization kit including a gas heater with a three month supply of fuel, jackets and blankets for the entire family, and two mattresses.
Hyam expressed happily, “The additions to our home will promote the quality of our life, and our children can play unrestrained in a warm, healthy and clean house — that would never have happened without the rehabilitation.”
Many members of my extensive Syrian family are still living in the war-scarred, historical capital of Damascus. My cousin Heeba, after witnessing brutality in the streets and destruction of her family’s home, said despairingly, “It feels like we are waiting for death.” The situation is dire and continues to worsen, as the number of refugees crossing into Syria’s neighbors has increased dramatically in just the last two weeks.
Drawn to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, I recently moved from California to Amman, Jordan and am now volunteering to document the lives of Syrian refugees for Mercy Corps.
On this first visit, I saw Hammam, Abd Aljaddar and Tebah having such a good time playing with their dad. It was heartwarming to witness them healthy and happy, to hear their story, and to see that Mercy Corps’ assistance has made a dramatic difference in their lives.