I am lucky - I know other children have it harder

The long journey to find safety

Marco Carraro and AbdelMajid El-Noaimi
27 December 2021

Sara, 13 years, was only six when her family packed up their belongings and started the long journey to find safety in Jordan from Syria.

“It happened like this,” she recalls. “I remember a long and tiresome journey here by car and when we got to the Syrian/Jordanian border we had no idea what was in store for us. We ended up being stuck there for months”.

In fact, this is Sara’s only memory, she remembers nothing else. Instead she remembers the new lease of life she received living in Azraq Refugee Camp.

Sara, 13, poses outside the music room at a Makani centre in Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan.
UNICEF/El-Noaimi/2021

In her family’s first months in the camp, they experienced many difficulties without access to reliable utility services. Lack of electricity was a constant issue. For one year, many families had to endure not having a constant output of electricity which often left them in darkness in their homes and unable to do many other daily household chores. Water was another issue, with few sources available, many families would queue for hours with jerry cans. While times were not always easy, services did improve and for Sara, living in the camp was a world away from being stuck at the border.

“The camp is luxury to me compared to being unable to leave the border,” says Sara, a laugh hiding the fact that she has experienced more hardship than a child ever should. “In all seriousness though, it was probably the worst period of my life and made us feel like we would never be able to get to safety”.

Coming to Azraq also opened many opportunities for Sara to thrive. One day a Makani outreach support team visited her family home and told her of all the possibilities that could be offered to her.

Thanks to generous support from the EU Madad Trust Fund, UNICEF-supported Makani centres in both Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps provide a safe space for children to survive and thrive through extra-curricular activities and additional support classes in essential subjects.

Sara’s drive for an improved education made her leap at the chance to be a part of the Makani family. She immediately registered in learning support services, UNICEF’s integrated programme to help children improve their grades in essential school subjects.  Sara decided that focusing on Arabic, Maths and English would be of most use to her.

“I am not here to do the other activities, although I know that they are important for many children,” explains Sara. “For me the extra support in these key subjects is my priority because I want to go to University”.

With Makani closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, activities were conducted as distance-learning activities. Communication between UNICEF staff, facilitators, and beneficiaries was conducted via WhatsApp messaging, enabling facilitators to share relevant content and COVID-19 awareness messages, as well as lesson materials and other education resources, such as videos and factsheets for the children to continue their learning.

“I felt suffocated having to stay indoors all day. The thing I missed most about the Makani centre was the motivation given to us from the teachers here. When they make us feel safe and when they open our possibilities,” says Sara.

Yet Sara believes she was still better off than many other children in the camp during this period.

“I am lucky. My parents are teachers, so I didn’t miss out so much,” explains Sara. “But my heart goes out to other children who are not as fortunate and may have struggled during the closures.”

Now that Makani centres are open, Sara is back in her learning support classes and can once again work towards her future.

“I have two dreams for the future - first, I want to get a scholarship. I want to be either a teacher or a pediatrician because I love helping children. Secondly I want to go back to Syria to learn about my home country.”

Sara

With thanks to the generous support provided by EU Madad Trust Fund, UNICEF Jordan can continue to provide girls with safe spaces to learn, develop and thrive.