Life was good for Mohammed and Amna Lelayesh, a warm, thoughtful couple in their mid-40s. He built houses and she minded their four children while studying for a degree in theology.
Then on February 12, 2012, they say, about 50 rockets fell on their neighborhood outside of Damascus. They grabbed the small travel bags they kept prepared and fled immediately. After about 10 days, they managed to cross into Jordan.
"I want to go back more than anything," Amna says, with tears in her eyes. "We had everything: a house, property, family, friends. Here we are lonely and isolated."
Mohammed traveled a bit in Jordan to figure where they could live affordably. They chose the town of Hartha because it was cheap and close to the border — close enough, I should note, that we could hear the Syrian Army and the Free Syria Army exchanging mortar fire across the border as we spoke.
The Lelayesh family live in a one-room cinder block house with a low aluminum roof. Luckily, they qualify for a Mercy Corps program that renovates the often-dilapidated rental housing Syrian refugees like the Lelayeshes are occupying. Mercy Corps is providing this kind of support to thousands of Syrian refugee families living outside refugee camps.
Inspecting the house, Mercy Corps engineering consultant Mouldi Ayari estimates the organization will spend about 1,200 Jordanian dinars (about $1,500 USD) to improve their home: an indoor bathroom, power and safe wiring, insulation, a water tank and water heater, and some paint.
In the last year, Mercy Corps, with the generous support of ECHO, the European Union's humanitarian relief department, helped over 3,000 Syrian and Jordanian families with such structural repairs. It's work that is becoming increasingly urgent, yet again, as winter approaches.
In addition to improving their homes, we are also giving families blankets, mattresses and gas heaters to help them through the Jordanian desert's bitter cold.
Mohammed and Amna seem to appreciate the assistance Mercy Corps will provide, but mostly they want to go home.
"The kids were always at the top of their classes," Mohammed says, as their 12-year-old daughter Daha pokes her head in the door. "They haven't been in school for ages, and they are more intense, more aggressive."
They were kind and gracious in their farewells, but there was an anxiety behind their smiles as we walked out of their house into the rumbling sounds of battle across the river.
How you can help
As the conflict intensifies in Syria, more families are fleeing to Jordan and Lebanon seeking safety. Your support is more crucial than ever to ensure refugees have the help they need to put their lives back together.