Today we are launching our From Hurt to Hope Spring fundraising drive. Throughout these next few weeks, we will be showcasing stories from our community of urban refugees in East Amman. The people in our community make up a fascinating and heart-rendering slice of Amman, and we can’t for you to hear directly from them!
Samira; Part 1
I miss my country and family in Syria. When I first came here I used to cry all the time. Any time I remember my family, any time I call them, I would cry, and can’t even speak to them over the phone. When I see a picture of my brother or sister or mother I would cry. Till now remembering them brings tears to my eye. I never imagined I would be away from them, I could never have imagined these circumstances would happen to us, to my family, to Syria.
Samira; Part 2
“I love attending the crochet classes at the center. Back in Syria I would knit everything. There’s not a child in my whole extended family that I have not knitted clothes for. I came to Jordan with my husband and 5 children and coming to the classes keeps me preoccupied and helps make the most of my time, rather than just sitting and dwelling on Syria, and all my family there. I chose crochet because it is something I can benefit from as well as help others with the clothes I create.”
Leila; Part 1
“I have been in Jordan for over a year from Baghdad Iraq. I came here alone; I was the last member of my family to leave Iraq. I miss everything in Iraq, my friends, my jobs, my colleagues – I was an accountant in Iraq. I loved my job and I miss it. Now I do not care where I live, no matter where it is I will be alone, so what difference does it make?”
Leila; Part 2
“I came to the center immediately after I arrived to Jordan. My neighbor told me there were English classes and women empowerment courses. I attended the women’s empowerment course for 7 months and I then attended a further training to become a trainer in the course. I attend whichever classes are being offered – to fill my time. If I did not have this to preoccupy myself with I would feel very sad and alone, this helps me to not think about everything that has happened to my country and to me. The center has allowed me to meet all kinds of new people, which gives me the opportunity to learn from everyone I meet. Life is all education, everyone has something to teach you.”
“I am a Jordanian Palestinian from Gaza and have been coming here for 7 months after hearing about the center from my friend. I attend the crochet classes and women’s empowerment, which is very good as it is so engaging and generates a lot of discussion. I learnt about Jordanian law, Syrian law and Iraqi law. We found out that there are so many laws for us women that we didn’t even know of and now I use the things we discuss in these sessions to resolve issues at home in my family, it has helped me see things from different peoples perspectives and become a mediator. I have also been able to meet and befriend people from different countries here at the center, something I had not done before.
I like creating things, necklaces, bracelets, key rings – I do all this by hand. When I sell them people tell me they can find them cheaper in the souk, but they don’t take into account the time and effort it takes to make something like this hand made. What is mass made in China is different to what is made by my hand here.”
Ziad; Part 1
“I’ve been coming to the center for 2 years as I had heard a lot of good things about CRP. I attend a lot of difference classes – some that are exercise for my body others are exercise for my brain – as refugees we have a lot of stress and pressure, so having a place where we can come and talk to others helps us have some peace of mind.
I came to Jordan with my wife from Syria. We had one daughter but she was killed in the war, I do not have anyone other than her. Coming here, keeping busy, it at least gives us hope. You cannot do anything, you cannot live without hope. My hope is to live in security and safety, and if things get better I hope God will grace us with a child.”
Ziad; Part 2
“In Syria I felt like I had dignity, self respect, but now I am under much pressure. If back home my neighbor would fall ill we would visit them, as this is a very important part of our culture and religion to visit the sick. But now if my neighbor is ill I worry he may think I am visiting because I need something. I feel lacking, but coming to the center makes me feel like I am not lacking, like there is hope. Hope for the future – hope so that we can work towards something, a future and not be consumed by despair, this is so important – the past is the past but we have a future to think about now.”
Shaza; Part 1
“I have two daughters- aged 17 and 10 years old. I attend the women’s empowerment sessions because I want to know what women’s rights are, so that in the future if I encounter any related problems I know my rights. In Iraq we were in a state of war so I did not have the chance to know this stuff, but now I have the opportunity here at CRP. I think it will help with my daughters – I will be a teacher and role model for them at home so that they know the capabilities and rights of women. I am a widow so am currently a mother and father to my daughters, I need to be able to provide for them financially, emotionally, socially – everything. My dream is that my daughters get a good education and can have stability in their lives. Everything else is secondary.
Because they do not attend school here they are bored and frustrated, they were used to routine – waking up, going to school, coming home and doing homework but now they do not have anything. My youngest daughter loves to learn. She would cry and ask me to send her to school, but I told her I do not have the money to pay for it so after a while she stopped asking – I would love nothing more than for her to get an education and it hurts that I cannot provide for that right now.”
Shaza; Part 2
“My youngest daughter now looks up drawing tutorials on YouTube, even though she’s only 10 years old her drawings are beautiful, from the boredom and free time she has found a way to keep preoccupied and produce beautiful art. She draws the virgin Mary, and the priest at the Church asked her to show him his drawings so he can display them. He has art classes for older children but said her art is so good she can attend them, even though she will be the youngest person there, she is so excited.”
Hala; Part 1
“I got engaged when I was a student and I used to take a bus to the university. One day I saw the bus in front of me and the bus behind me get blown up. My bus was in the middle. After a week of being in shock, I went back to school by taxi for my exams. I then got married and got pregnant and would still attend classes when I was 8 months pregnant. My husband used to study in Hilla – 8 hours away, I was at Mosul at university but I did not stop going to classes because I saw myself as being able to help others with my degree in the future.
We held on to Iraq for as long as we could. My husband was a university professor in the arts and received death threats for supposed debauchery. His colleagues were killed. He would come home and say, “I don’t know how God has protected me today, how am I still alive?” My husband refused to leave for so long because he would say it is impossible that humanity here has ended. He said he had students whose futures depended on him for their studies and their exams so we have to stay with them even if that means some sacrifices along the way. But 50 days ago, after years and years of holding on, we left Iraq at midnight.”
Hala; Part 2
“We held on for years, until one day we said, ‘We can’t carry on like this. Our 4 year old daughter is not experiencing a childhood.’ She couldn’t even attend school. While we lived through everything there for the sake of education, in the end we had to leave for the sake of her future, for our hopes in her childhood.
Iraq is my country; no matter where I go in the world I will not find a better and more beautiful country. Just like everyone has a father and a family to embrace them, no country will embrace me more than my country. We try to hold on to the positive memories of Iraq. My husband and I had a puppet theatre for children in Erbil. It was beautiful. I am a painter and express myself through art – I like being creative and want to use my talents to help others.”
Artwork by Hala
Here is a piece of artwork Hala created depicting the refugee journey that she, like most of our community, undertake in search of security and safety.
Salem; Part 1
“In Iraq we did not have time for any self-improvement because our time was consumed with daily struggles. The electricity cuts took a third of our time, waiting for gasoline took 2 hours, dealing with the water cuts took another chunk of the day. Our basic needs in Iraq were all problematic, it all required work and a lot of effort. But on top of that was the security issues–the threats to our lives and communities.
I have been in Jordan less than a year and am using the opportunity to learn new skills and improve. CRP has really helped us. It has helped us make new friends and it gives us something positive to do with our time. Like today. Because I have an English class at 10, I will make myself wake up at 9 and get out of the house. These activities give me a routine and structure to my day, which is something I need as a refugee.
I train people at CRP about how to prevent family violence. When I first began attending, the facts and information were all new to me personally and to many of the attendees. The classes generate a lot of discussion, and the whole class enjoys them as we share our perceptions, opinions, and problems with each other. We really need this–a place to share with others who may be going through similar issues–so we can benefit from each other.”
Salem; Part 2
“I came to Jordan with my wife, daughter and son. There has been a change in my family as a result of coming to CRP because of the things I’ve learned from the course and from others. At home, I am now implementing what I’ve learned in the sessions about how to better treat my family with my daughter and son. When I first started to come to the center it was purely to occupy my time, but now it has become like a family environment–I feel the people here are family now
There is nothing I do not miss about Iraq, from my friends and family to the river Dijla to my neighbors. Everything. But what can we do? We have made new friends here, and started a new life.”
San’a; Part 1
“We left Baghdad in 2013. It was like a prison–especially for us, since we were minorities. Now when I come to CRP and learn about human rights I think ‘How were we living in Iraq?’ My whole life I didn’t feel like I had any rights. We were living in fear. We could not even express ourselves even if we were in our own home. That is something that had been ingrained in us since we were children: ‘Don’t express yourself. Don’t think.’ It was all fear. So I grew up, got married and I passed that same fear on to my children. When I came here to Jordan, I still lived with this fear. I stayed for a period of time at home afraid. My little son was 12 years old when we came and I wouldn’t let him go to school. If my son was out late I was terrified. I would accompany my daughter everywhere and I even prevented her from going to shop alone. It got to the point where I began thinking that I had to find a way to stop this behavior. Fear had taken over my life and it got to the point where I hated myself. I hurt myself and my children with this fear.”
San’a; Part 2
“And so in 2015 I came to the center, and what can I tell you about CRP? It was like psychological treatment without a doctor. I can’t even describe it. Whatever you can imagine learning–it is here. In the beginning I thought I would come here for some sort of psychological support. I came simply to talk about my problems. It was like opening up my wounds, but in truth there is no one who is able to heal them. Talking is not like getting involved in something. I began coming here for English classes and still I would go back home with this fear in me. But then for 8 months I came to the women’s empowerment sessions and I got to know many Iraqi women. Back in Iraq I would have been been afraid of them. I had no friends back in Iraq, but then I came to CRP and said to myself, ‘Where were these amazing people in Iraq?’
Our instructor is amazing. She is like a sister and a friend, and she taught us how to love ourselves. I never imagined I had the capacity to feel like this. I felt like I hated myself before–like an animal who would just eat, breathe and sleep. She brought things out that I had inside me that I did not even know of.
We spoke about women’s empowerment, about women’s rights that every person should enjoy but that I had not even heard of. It was like we had been programmed not to see that these are our rights. The course began making me a better person, and I convinced my daughter to come with me. After that, I began to see my daughter’s personality changing day by day. Do you know what a happy thing that is to see? That you have done something for your daughter that will impact how she will go on to raise her own family. My daughter has now become a trainer. She now has so much self confidence. Her thoughts and opinions come out naturally and coherently without fear. She now has big dreams.
I used to be afraid even to express myself, but now I have become a trainer! I now stand before people who are like I was when I first came to the center–afraid and completely overcome by fear. As a trainer, I want to make sure that no woman remains afraid or is afraid to share her opinion.”
“I came to Jordan 3 years ago from Syria. In this country I am a stranger. I am alone. I don’t have many friends to socialize with or get advice from. So I’ve been coming to CRP for two years to meet new people and to benefit from spending time with others as well as from the sessions I attend. I take part in the exercise activities to lose weight and stay healthy. Sometimes I come here 2 times in one day. The hardest thing for me is missing my family and friends. Before, I had always heard about people who immigrate, but I never imagined it would be a reality I would live through. Time has passed, though, and I find myself in this situation. Being a stranger in a foreign land is difficult. Being a refugee is hard. If I didn’t have CRP I would be even more alone, but CRP is like a friend that has provided me with company.”
“Whenever I come to the center, I’m able to stop thinking of myself as a refugee, and for me that is the most important thing. I was a civil engineer in Iraq but here in Jordan I’m not allowed to work. The activities and classes at CRP allow me to forget this reality–to forget this situation I am in as a refugee. They allow me to forget that my future is uncertain and they give me respite.”
Dena is just 17 years old but has big ambitions and is seen almost every day at the center attending everything from yoga, Zumba, English classes, computer sessions and women’s leadership group. Even though she has only been in Jordan for 4 months, she is determined to make the most of her time. Just recently, she took a lead role in organizing CRP’s International Women’s Day event. Dena is one of many in CRP’s community who refuses to be defined by her circumstances.
Image © Meike Scholz
Aya; Part 1/2
“I’ve been in Jordan for 3 years. I’ve been regularly coming to CRP ever since I came to Amman from Baghdad. Any activity I hear of that takes place at CRP, I attend. I am always looking for things that are beneficial for me, because when I was in Iraq I had so many dreams I was unable to fulfill. That’s why I seek out anything for self improvement–where I can learn. In Iraq my father was a writer, and the circumstances there gave him so much stress that he had a stroke. We left everything in Iraq and came to Jordan with just the clothes on our back. We are now waiting on a visa to Australia. My first wish is to have a home–my own home, where I can be settled and safe. And I want to get an education, since I was deprived of that back home.
Aya; Part 2
“The classes at CRP I enjoy the most are the gender violence awareness sessions which I often lead as a trainer. As a trainer, I feel I have an importance–that I’m able to do something big. Some people in the wider society may see this as simple or insignificant–that we are promoting women’s rights–but for me this is a huge. Especially since in my own family my parents always treated me just like my brothers. They afforded me with rights that I hope everyone can have.
The women attending the sessions are really benefiting and they’re very engaged. After each class they thank me for reaching them. Before, I used to always feel it was difficult to connect with people. Because of the events that happened to me, it was really hard for me to communicate and interact comfortably, but now I am a trainer and reaching people with such an important topic.”
“I arrived in Jordan 2 years ago with my wife and 9 children from Homs, Syria. I was scared for my children’s lives so we decided to leave. My kids attend school in the afternoons so they come to CRP with me in the mornings. I used to be overweight but I lost a lot of weight by attending the exercise classes here! The thing I miss most is my village in Syria. I spent my childhood there and learned everything I know about life there. I pray for the day we can return to Syria.”
I have been in Jordan 4.5 years. After two months, I started coming to the center. I attend English classes, men’s support group, and computer classes. I find the English and computer courses especially useful – I really want to strengthen those skills.
The center has provided me with food and other necessities I need along with the classes I attend. Coming to the center gives me something to do, and a lot of my friends also attend the sessions here.
I miss everything about Iraq–my friends, family, and the place of my childhood. My hope for the future is to be reunited with my family.”
“I really like Yoga but it’s so hard! I get so tired every time I do it.”
“Just remembering Iraq makes my eyes teary. The word Baghdad itself creates a sense of loss in me without end. I am a poet from Iraq, I came to Jordan 4 years ago. I write traditional Iraqi poems and short stories, and I currently write for the Women Against Violence in Jordan Association. I am responsible for the short stories. I keep myself busy this way. Living as a refugee has been difficult and four years is an extremely long time, though with the help of organizations like CRP we have felt occupied and the time has passed. I attend the gender violence class which is very important because to be honest we all suffer from issues relating to violence, whether it is violence in the family, or violence in society – these classes address all types of violence and is very beneficial for immigrants.
I came with my family, but my fifth son returned to Iraq. He saw that the refugee process is very lengthy and returned to Iraq without our knowledge. I woke up at 2 am in the morning and found him gone. Until now his mother cries endlessly, and even when I see his photo I start to cry.”
Huda is our yoga pro and has already attended over 5 yoga sessions! Like too many in her position she is unable to attend school and so she has declared that she wants to become a yoga instructor when she grows up because it is something quirky, unusual and a skill she can learn outside of school. She refuses to allow her circumstances to hinder her spirit and excitedly demonstrates the positions she has learnt – especially standing on her head which Huda finds very relaxing!
Image © Meike Scholz
Sisters Sarah and Sura are usually very shy but it’s a different story in our kid’s yoga sessions where they become very animated and tease other as they compete to perfect the positions. They attend After School Club and Girl Scouts every Saturday. Having a safe, fun space for kids to enjoy and learn is very important to CRP and we love welcoming families to our activities.
Image © Meike Scholz
Like many others 13-year old Samer from Iraq isn’t attending school right now so he comes to the center to stay busy and meet friends. He has begun attending kids’ yoga sessions at CRP and finds them “very relaxing”. Once the session is over, he bounds off filled with energy.
So many of the children in our community are not attending school due to the costs and are missing out on key parts of their education.
Image © Meike Scholz
Hassan is the center’s youngest English student and is frequently seen running around alerting people to their body parts in English shouting “nose!”, “eyes!” “mouth”. Here he is in the CRP center playground having some much-needed recreation time after a taxing morning of both being a pupil and teacher of English!
Image © Meike Scholz
Muneera was a shrewd and capable businesswoman in Iraq holding down three day jobs and running a successful small business from her home creating wedding décor accessories. Despite her professional acumen, she felt she lacked self-confidence. After attending our women’s empowerment course, she says she is so much more confident and comfortable dealing with people one on one. She would love to put her newfound confidence to the test and is itching to get back to work. In the meantime, she is keeping herself busy and constantly looking for self improvement by attending English and Computer classes at the center.
Image © Meike Scholz
Our community center provides a safe, fun space for people like Dania to learn, meet friends and even practice her skateboarding skills. As our community grows with the ongoing conflicts in neighbouring countries we need your assistance to continue to serve people like Dania and so many more in East Amman.