National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

In their skin

March 2016

by volunteer workers and residents at Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

The lead character Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view …

Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it’. ALWS’s Chey Mattner recently visited Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, meeting refugees who live and work there; and bringing back their stories, so we can know a little of what it’s like to be inside their skin. The stories have been received in English as told to a translator in Arabic.

What the future holds for the people at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan is unknown, says Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) Executive Secretary Chey Mattner.

‘As with any refugee, they are at the mercy of individuals (in power in their home countries)’, he says of the camp’s 80,000 residents, having met volunteer workers for Lutheran World Federation (LWF) at the camp earlier this year.

Due to your generous giving, ALWS is able to support the work of the LWF in Jordan, including at Zaatari, and the workers receive a small stipend for what they do.

But, despite their past suffering and the uncertainty facing them, the refugees show great appreciation for the work of LWF (which they refer to as ‘Lutheria’), which gives them a chance to be involved as volunteers, and, importantly, hope for a better future.

Fasil
Dad and garbage collector

I’m Fasil. When the crisis in Syria became dangerous my three daughters were at school. The regime entered the school and sent many children to jail. I rescued my daughters. My brother was tortured under the regime.

We arrived in Zaatari in 2013. We were all in one tent and just recently managed to save some money to buy a ‘caravan’ (pre-fab room). In the tent we didn’t feel cold (it can snow) or hot (40+°C) because our main feeling was that we were safe.

(My knees) often get infected, and so I’m unable to do physical work. But if I have the chance, I collect garbage at the camp. I get paid 1 Jordanian dinar ($2) a day to do this.

I hope one day I can return to Syria but it’ll be difficult because things are getting worse.

Lutheria has been a big help. I really appreciate it. It’s number one! Why? Because it has given my wife a sewing course so now she can make some clothes. My daughter received psychosocial help, and I did a barbering course. I haven’t been able to set up a shop, but at least I can cut my family’s hair.

Mohammed
LWF volunteer worker: Youth educator and supervisor for Life Skills course

My name’s Mohammed. I’m 28 years old. I was studying English literature at Damascus University before the war.

After graduating, I would normally need to do army service, but I don’t believe in war, so the regime put me on their wanted list. Security forces came to my house. They arrested three of my brothers and destroyed furniture.

They sent a message to me through my brothers saying, “If we catch you we will kill you and cut you up into many pieces”. I decided to leave Syria. The Free Syrian Army helped me. It was a very risky trip. Shelling and gunshots were happening every day.

During my first month (at Zaatari) I was shocked and depressed because I had left my family, friends and house. Lutheria visited me to provide support. They explained what their mission, objectives and plans were, and invited me to volunteer. I accepted because I believed in these objectives and needed to break out of my depression.

The quality of Lutheria’s work – not just to provide services but a high quality of services – and the respectful way they treat refugees, with respect and dignity, attracted me.

My dream is to return to Syria one day, to return to my study, and to rebuild my country again.