MY TRIP TO JORDAN: INSIDE AZRAQ, JORDAN'S SYRIAN REFUGEE CAMP
In March 2019 I joined my Plan International family on an eye-opening trip to Jordan as ambassador. I documented by experience on EVOKE.IE. Have a read.
'In the heart of the Jordanian desert, just 67 miles outside the country's capital city of Amman, the sound of music and laughter fills the air; children of all ages passionately singing and dancing along to folk songs as their teacher strums a tune on the guitar.
The words cut right through to the heart; they are singing about their motherland, a place they have been unfairly torn away from as victims of Syria’s Civil War.
Inside the colourful classrooms of Azraq Refugee Camp is an atmosphere of life, hope and joy, but the reality of life inside the confines of a barbed-wire fenced camp thousands of miles away from home couldn’t be more different.
Life here is difficult and as an outsider spending a few hours in the company of its residents, it’s impossible to comprehend the hardships these people have endured.
The conflict in Syria has been widely reported since it began in 2011. According to the UN Envoy for Syria, some 400,000 people lost their lives in the first five years of the war, with 13.5 million Syrians displaced worldwide. 600,000 of these refugees are in Jordan, living in three major refugee camps.
Azraq is just one of these camps; a new found home to around 40,615 refugees, 24,369 of which are children. Here, one in four households are headed by women, with the average family comprising of 6 children.
The women we met during our trip to Azraq are fiercely brave and incredibly passionate; their main focus the welfare of their children. Remembering their past lives is painful and thinking to the future brings hot tears of immeasurable pain to their eyes but nevertheless they’re doing everything they can to secure a better life for their children.
In Syria, they left behind entire lives; beautiful homes, loving families and blossoming careers. Here, in the heart of the desert, they have found a safe haven away from guns, bombs and bloody war but still, the reminders are everywhere.
Azraq is considered ‘one of the best-planned refugee camps in the world,’ boasting its own hospital, supermarket and family village-style neighbourhoods; the site runs on solar power allowing for electricity, a water pumps and even satellite TV in some of the dwellings called caravans.
But what might read as somewhat manageable conditions on paper, translates very differently in reality.
The camp has no transport system, the queues for the water pumps are endless, the hospital a long distance to get to and a major lack of jobs for the thousands of inhabitants – especially for those who call Village Five home.
EVOKE.IE joined Plan International Ireland for a trip inside Azraq to see both the incredible life-changing work they are doing through early childhood education services, parenting skills classes and disability awareness /inclusivity programmes but also to meet the people who call Azraq home.
In the next post, I'll bring your their stories.