Oxfam’s Amy Christian has been seeing for herself how your donations are helping to support people who have fled conflict in Syria. Here, she describes her experience of meeting two Syrian refugees, Tahseen (pictured above) and Bassam, as they prepare for the winter ahead.
Tahseen and Bassam are Syrian refugees now living in Jordan. I meet them one morning after they have just received an ATM cash card from Oxfam to help them meet their families’ basic needs.
“Mountains can’t come together but people can,” says Tahseen, a Syrian refugee in Baqaa, Jordan. “I first met Bassam back in Syria. I worked in the town where he lived. I didn’t know him well but one day shortly after I arrived here in Jordan I saw him walking down the street and I recognized his face. Now we’re good friends.
“I’ve seen quite a few people here who I know from Syria. It feels comforting to meet people I recognise. Bassam and I went to the distribution together today, I wanted to help him as his wife was in hospital having their baby and he was looking after their young daughter Ramma.”
We rarely have enough
At the cash card distribution, one hundred families received a card to access an account into which £15 per person in the family is deposited alongside £80 for rent. The cards will be topped up three times over the next three months.
“I used to work as a firefighter in Syria but I can’t work here in Jordan as it’s illegal, so I have to rely entirely on the support of the community where I live. The community has been very good to us but it’s very difficult and we rarely have enough. Our rent is cheaper than some places but I still can’t afford it really.
“I have no other option though as I can’t go back to Syria. Not yet anyway, not whilst the conflict continues. I have lost a lot in this crisis, my brother and my son are both dead. That’s why we decided to eventually leave. Keeping my other two children safe is the most important thing.
“The money we received today will help a lot. It won’t solve everything but sometimes a little piece of gravel can hold up the whole house.The money we received today will help a lot. It won’t solve everything but sometimes a little piece of gravel can hold up the whole house.” Tahseen turns up his hands and tilts his head to the side.
As Syrian people now living here in Jordan struggle to cope with the difficulties of being a refugee, battling to pay the rent and have enough food to eat everyday, life goes on, the seasons are changing and new life arrives everyday. Today Tahseen’s friend Bassam and his wife had their second child here in Jordan. Her name is Nermeen. A tiny pink bundle wrapped in a big woolen blanket, her eyes mostly scrunched shut and her little tiny fingers reaching out. Bassam’s wife Kholoud cradles the newborn baby in her arms. I feel privileged to be sharing such a special day with
It won’t be long until winter
After we met Tahseem and Bassam in the morning we went with them to use the cash machine and then to the market to buy some food. Now Bassam is cooking up a delicious dish of iron packed liver for Kholoud. He wants to make sure she gets all the right vitamins to replenish those which she lost during childbirth. They don’t have a fridge so aren’t able to store much food but Bassam was determined to buy nutritious fruit and vegetables for his family.
Their home in Jordan is basic, unfinished, the walls and floor are ice cold, even now when it’s still warm outside. I ask about winter and Tahseen explains that no one can afford a heater and even if they could they can’t afford the oil to keep it running.
“We have to consider blankets and warm clothes for the children when we receive this money. It won’t be long until winter. We are preparing any way we can. The other day my wife found a blanket in the street, in the rubbish, and she bought it home and washed it. We don’t want our children to have to live like this, we want them to have a good life.”
Everyday that I have been here in Jordan and Lebanon these last two weeks, meeting refugees from Syria, I am left humbled by the generosity and warmth we have received and by the kindness I have seen within the communities. People taking care of other people they barely know, new friendships emerging, kindness in the shape of shared food or oil lent for the cooking stove. Today it was Tahseen looking out for his new friend Bassam that pulled on my heart.
We left Bassam and his family to enjoy their new daughter. Walking back outside into the sunshine I wondered what the future held for Nermeen.