January 22, 2013
The Relief International team recently received this “note from the field” from a camp meeting in the Zam Zam Refugee Camp in Darfur, Sudan, where RI is helping women and families rebuild their livelihoods.
During a meeting of our staff and some members of the community in Zam Zam, the topic of the most important and basic needs of the people came up. This topic spurred a heated and passionate discussion among many of the women in Zam Zam. As they all sat in a circle, with enthusiasm, our staff member started jotting down notes as the women voiced their requests and their concerns about their community’s future.
Together, Relief International and the women of the Zam Zam Camp outlined these basic needs for us to take note of. Simply glancing at their needs, we are humbled.
Some of these basic requests are things that we take for granted as they are readily available to us here at home. Everyone in the world should have the right to these basic necessities. We share this list with you to highlight the resilience and strength of these women.
The note reads (translated from Arabic to the best of our capacity):
“In the name of God the Merciful”
“Demands of newly displaced people from the area of “immigrants” to the Zam Zam Camp”
“1 - Widening the narrow roads, at the time of fire, roads become dangerous
2 - Improving the level of health in the new camp
3 - Educating children and giving attention to adult literacy
4 - Building latrines in the new camp
5 - Building 5 [grain] mills and peeler (scaler)
6 - Providing building materials, blankets and tents
7 - Providing kitchen utensils and clothes”
8 - Providing groceries and food supplies due to the lack of firewood for cooking
9 - Provide generators for lighting the camp
10 - Providing drilling equipment
11 - Providing the basic essential needs of the people in their daily lives”
January 18, 2013
The Emergency Response Coordinator, Mary Ana McGlasson, reports from the field in the Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan, where Relief International is providing life-saving relief.
Syria. I don’t know why it grabbed my attention so quickly-with so many disasters and tragedies happening around the world simultaneously, why did this one weigh so heavily on my mind? In the wake of the Arab Spring, there were plenty of stories of triumph and tragedy, but somehow, I found this one occupying a lot of my quiet thoughts. In August, the total numbers of refugees went from a steady trickle to a full-blown population exodus, doubling the numbers of refugees fleeing regionally, and forcing countless Syrians to run for safety within the country’s borders. By September, it was widely believed that there was no safe place for civilians inside Syria.
In the photo above, Mary Ana and and a little girl she met while working in the Za’atari Camp.
In response to this rapid influx of refugees, I deployed to Jordan to assess the situation within the newly-built Za’atari Camp and urban communities of Jordan near the Syrian border. Despite working day and night with little sleep, I found myself with constant motivation, and an unexplainable connection to the 15-month old crisis. It felt so good to actually be doing something, instead of sitting by and watching what could be one of the greatest tragedies in recent history.
I have now spent most of the past several months on the ground here in Jordan. The refugees here are middle-class, primarily educated people. Until weeks or months ago, they had modern houses with cars, bathrooms, kitchens. Now they live in tents, in the cold and windy desert, with winter worsening every day. Many people have shoes that are worn through from a long and difficult journey and they have no winter clothes.
Each day, when I walk through the camp, I am always shocked by two things: the harsh conditions of the camp and the unwavering generosity and hospitality of the people living here. Despite living through incredible tragedy and violence, often losing more than a few family members along their treacherous journey, I was invited into countless homes and I drank literally dozens of cups of tea and coffee. Sitting and drinking tea and listening to stories of survival, while sharing a quiet moment of solidarity is certainly one of the most important things I can do with my time.
In many tents, mothers have fashioned small shrines with photos of sons, daughters, and husbands in the corner, and they share with me stories of separation or worse. They share openly about the things they have seen and experienced, and it is important for them to help me understand that just weeks or months ago, they were living in houses with bathrooms and nice kitchens. One woman, Hanna*, traveled to the camp without her husband, 8 months pregnant, and with four other children by her side. She explained to me that she finds it difficult every day to learn how to live without the support of her husband, and without running water, winter clothing, privacy, and a sense of safety. “I don’t know how to live like this- in Syria, I had a nice house, a car, and a big kitchen. Now I share a kitchen with 20 other families, and my children cry because they are cold at night.”
During the New Year, families took time to pause and be thankful, but always with the caveat that they hope in 2014 they will be celebrating again in Syria with reunited families. “Isha’allah,” or “God willing,” they say, with brave faces, choking back tears.
We can hope, together-we can all hope that the crisis is resolved and the Syrian people can return to their homes to rebuild and live peacefully. But in the meantime, Relief International is doing everything we can to reduce suffering and provide hope.
What would you do if you were traumatized, cold, and out of your element, in a foreign place, with only icy water to wash yourself? There are at least 3500 families (about 17,500 people) without sufficient hygiene items-soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc. Yet, you are not permitted to leave the camp to go to the normal market in the neighboring town, and while there is a substantial market growing up within the camp, the available cash to make purchases is extremely low, and the price of soap is relatively high (almost $5 per bar of soap, compared with an average daily wage of $10 per day for those few who can find paid work within the camp, which is probably less than 1 percent.)
All I can offer now is my own inexhaustible passion and labor for this cause, and a small bar of soap. They need shoes, socks, mittens, underwear…heaters, fuel, and hope.
To learn more about RI’s life-saving relief programs assisting Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, please click here.
*Name has been changed.
March, 30 2012
Today’s photo update from Relief International volunteer and Deputy Community Service Coordinator, Bashir Mohamed, reporting from the field:
This girl is grinding Sorghum as part of routine meal preparation. Her name is Sarina and she is nine years old. The baby she is carrying is one of her twin nephews, Younis.
Sarina’s family, including her father Bell, mother Saima, and twin nephews, Younis and Julliet, arrived in Doro four months ago. They had fled from Belila, which is located in the Blue Nile State of Sudan, because of the increasing violence and conflict in the community.
Sarina is grinding Sorghum in the picture below.
March 22, 2012
Today’s update from Relief International Volunteer and Deputy Community Service Coordinator, Bashir Mohamed, reporting from the field:
This photo was taken during one of my meetings with the Sheikh of Balila (Balila is a sub-section of the Doro refugee camp) as he signed a list of approved tent recipients. Sheikhs are local elders who serve as community and/or religious leaders, much like chiefs and tribal representatives.
The photo below shows the Sheikh of Balila busy looking over assessment documents which he is signing.
My meeting with the Sheikh of Balila is part of a process that Relief International engages in along with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to collaborate with sheikhs who are representatives of refugees. One of the things we collaborate on is informing the sheikhs of tent assessments and their corresponding criteria to be conducted in the camp. The purpose of these tent assessments is to find out how many families, many of whom are newly arrived refugees, are in need of shelter.
Relief International and UNHCR look to the sheikhs to give approval and advice to conduct aid assessments in their communities. Working closely with community leaders is important so that Relief International can learn about what families in camps like Doro need most.
Once we have completed the assessment and created a list of families who need shelter, we take this list of beneficiaries back to the sheikhs for verification and signature.
March 6, 2012
Relief International aid worker Tiare Cross reports from the Doro Refugee Camp. Here is her post from today and photo update.
Today in Doro Refugee Camp, children’s activities started. I came upon this mob of exuberant children in the camp jumping rope. There were only ten jump ropes for approximately 100 plus children, but they were enjoying themselves in groups taking turns with the rope.
The photo above shows all the excited children that showed up for children’s activities today.
It is great to see kids smiling and playing, especially after they have made a hard journey from Blue Nile State to the refugee camp in Doro. Daily life for kids is not easy, many of the boys fish during the day at the river, bringing home a much needed protein source for their families. The girls spend most of the day bringing water and cooking for their families, as well as looking after other children. School starts in April here in South Sudan, and we know that getting children back to school is a top priority for the refugee families.
Below is a photo of child refugees jumping rope at the Doro Refugee Camp where Relief International is working.