For Ali, working long hours every day has not just meant less time to play and be a teenager. It has literally endangered his health: two years ago he nearly lost his hand when he dozed off grinding chickpeas. Luckily, he was rushed to the hospital and his hand was salvaged.
The situation of the 17,000 people living in Souf is bleak. Job opportunities are limited, and most refugees take on temporary jobs in neighboring farms picking olives and working the land. For the 3,400 teenagers in the camp there are few places to meet and socialize and fewer prospects. Boys and girls rarely mix and many girls marry before they turn 18.
So when a project designed to teach teenage boys and girls about filming, editing and scriptwriting was launched at Souf Camp to encourage self expression and youth participation, it was greeted with much enthusiasm.
"This has been an eye opener for the kids," says project director Bashar Sharaf. "Because they are used to rote learning in their schools, they found it difficult at first to express themselves and speak to the other sex, but they soon overcame their shyness, and spoke freely about issues which concerned them."
The participants began by brainstorming on what would be a good topic for their film. In the end, they decided to make a film featuring the plight of children who have to work to support their families and chose Ali as the main character. [watch the video]
Once the theme was chosen, the youths started writing the script, and then worked on capturing images of life in the camp, editing and translation.
"This documentary is a personal scream. We wanted to reach out, make people living outside the camps know what our lives are like," says Ali. "It's tough, but what's even tougher is having young people my age pass by and stare because I am not doing the same things that they are doing."
Ali is one of the more than 40,000 working children between 7 and 18 years old who live in Jordan. Worldwide, an estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labour. Nearly 70 per cent of these children work in hazardous conditions, including working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or with dangerous machinery. Although they are everywhere, they mostly remain invisible, toiling as domestic servants in homes, working behind the walls of workshops, hidden from view in factories.