Ellis Garey, Intern at ARDD-Legal Aid
Last week, I visited the caravan a group of Syrian men use as a makeshift community center in Za’atari camp. The men meet together to write music; they are bored, unemployed, and use music as an escape from the reality they have faced every day for nearly two years. These men fled from their homeland and though they have lost their homes and, for some, their hope as well, they have refused to lose their sense of generosity. Shortly after I entered the room, the men offered me both coffee and tea. Though they most likely considered this gesture common courtesy, I was amazed. Yet this was not the last time that day I was shown generosity. An hour or so later, while interviewing women in a communal kitchen on the cleanliness of latrines, one of the mothers offered me food. At first, I politely declined, but the women insisted, “it is a gift.” After visiting Za’atari, it became quite clear to me that the most important lesson the international community has to learn from Syrian refugees is one of giving.
The monetary response by nations worldwide to the Syrian refugee crisis has been underwhelming to say the least. Contributions have been far lower than necessary, and delays in delivering funds have been frequent. The consequences of falling short in funding are severe—soon even the most basic resources will be unavailable to the refugees in Za’atari. Water supplies will run dry and those seeking medical attention will have to be denied.The international community has allowed the conflict to escalate to a point where more than 1.5 million refugees have fled Syria only to find conditions in camps and host communities that rival what they experienced in their war torn homeland.
I spent just one day in Za’atari, yet in that day, I witnessed a group of people experiencing hardships most of us cannot imagine. People wait in line for food and water for hours, and there are not enough latrines to meet health standards. The camp environment is bad enough that every day, dozens of refugees line up to return to Syria. Despite all this, the people I met in Za’atari camp showed me nothing but kindness. I was offered drinks and food despite the fact that water and nutrients are two of the most limited resources Syrians in Za’atari have access to. The international community should take note and learn a thing or two from those living in Za’atari. If people who have lost nearly everything have the capacity to show generosity, surely those who are astronomically more privileged have more to give as well.