Upon our visit to the Za’atri refugee camp in Mafraq on Nov. 15th 2012, we got together with the group of men that we assigned to work with through Voice. They had some interesting stories to share about their daily lives at the camp; some they had written and ready for us to read and others came up spontaneously as we talked and sipped tea.
Electricity in the camp is only present along the roads; street lamps pave the streets of the camp for refugees to see their way around during the night. Bathrooms are dimly lit and individual tents and caravans do not get the leisure of electricity for personal use. However, most of the men we talked to, if not all, have cell phones that need charging, it’s their only way of communicating with their relatives in Syria, others living outside the camp, and even with us. Other than that the sun sets at approximately 5:30 pm, and surely children, for example, are not expected to study in the dark. We have a saying in Arabic that roughly translates to ‘need is the mother of all inventions’, and even though it’s not strictly an invention, the Syrians in the camp have found a way to get electricity into their tents.
The one they call ‘Spider Man’ after the famous character is a 17 year-old boy braving the dangers and climbing up the lamp posts to provide the people with a source of electricity. This skillful teenager does this for a small fee; providing some income for himself and his family and supplying the tents with a much-needed source. They talk about him with smiles; happiness at finding ‘Spider Man’ inside the camp and amusement at the image of him climbing up those lamp posts for some money and a much-needed service.
The political situation in Syria can best be described as complicated or unclear; the fighting continues and until now there aren’t any tangible efforts to end the conflict. For the refugees inside the camp, their views of when they will return to Syria vary. Some say it will end in months and that Insha’Allah (God willing) they will be back in Syria before the end of the year. Some are less hopeful; one of the men in the group swore he will not return until the elections take place in 2014, we can only hope that the conflict doesn’t continue until then but even with that notion the prospect for elections seems far and out of reach for most.
With that regard, some men have started settling in as one of them, a nurse by profession, recounted this story to us. He was discussing with one of his neighbors some improvements they can apply to the tents, and that next summer they can have a better-designed area where they can gather and spend some time together. His friend stopped his planning by exclaiming that it’s the beginning of winter and laughed at his friend’s unconscious attempt to make a home of their temporary residence.