Sa’eed sits in CRP’s courtyard, wrapped in a blue hoodie. Sa’eed didn’t come to CRP yesterday. He was busy taking his daughter, Hanadi, to the airport. She is finally reuniting with her fiancé of five years, who lives in Lebanon. A quick-congratulations temporally dispels the anxious look on his face.
A Syrian barber from Damascus, Sa’eed teaches classes at CRP’s refugee led barbershop program. He, along with two other men convene, six days a week to pass on their skills. And in the process, administer free haircuts to anyone that needs them, even making house-calls for those too sick to go out.
Started three years ago by Saleem, an Iraqi beneficiary, the program has become one of our most popular. We graduated 101 students this past year.
“I noticed that there were too many people, (guys especially,) on the road not doing anything. This is an opportunity for them to do something with their time and learn how to cut hair while giving back to the community,” Saleem says. “Hopefully, after they finish they can start their own services.”
The barbershop serves as more than just a teaching tool. It’s also a place men of the community can gather to have conversations and bond. Since most of the them are not allowed to work due to Jordanian laws, the cramped room serves as one of their only chances to get things off their chest, or at least momentarily forget those things all together.
“I decided to leave Syria when the crisis began. My home was completely demolished by both sides,” says Sa’eed. “We were stuck in the middle, just watching. There was no home, no place for us to stay, and no shop for us to work in.”
Even though Sa’eed has 43 years of barbering experience, he says nobody will hire him in Jordan because he is so old. But the barbershop is in his blood. “Being a barber runs in the family, my father was a barber, I am a barber, and one of my daughters is a beautician.”
Saleem has been a bit luckier. “There are some training opportunities outside of Hashemi. Somebody offered me 200 JD to teach monthly, but I decided not to do it because I was worried about the community,” he says. “I wanted this to become like humanitarian work, I didn’t want to monetize it. We wanted to offer something to the community. I like the fact that people can come to CRP and learn for free, I don’t want people to have to pay like at other places.”
The program instills a sense of purpose for the people that teach and those who come to learn. Idleness is one of the biggest issues for refugees. Especially for men, who are used to providing for their families, and often experience depression or a sense of uselessness with their new lives.
“I feel like a teacher who educates their students and finally gets to watch them graduate. It gives me confidence and joy, people see me in the street and they know who I am,” says Saleem. “And they know that I contribute to something within the community. Some of them are former students, so I get a lot more respect now.”
Unfortunately, we are only able to host the barbershop for six months out of the year due to space issues. The other half is reserved for women’s beauty school. During this time Saleem makes house calls. But, Sa’eed is still not able to fill his time, and says he wishes that the program would run year-round.
CRP is currently looking for ways to expand our Community Center. One big challenge is finding more space to rent, and the funding to refurbish it. We rely on individual donors to cover these basic costs.
Both men say they are committed to the program, and plan to stay on as long as possible. Despite their problems, they say their family’s safety is paramount, and the security Jordan provides helps them to be content.
Sa’eed’s mind turns back to Hanadi. She became engaged to her fiancé when they were still living in Syria. After the war broke out, however, he went to Lebanon and they came to Jordan. They’ve kept in touch during the past five years, and the wedding is finally set for Saturday. But Sa’eed will have to miss his daughter’s wedding.
“No one can attend because if we leave we will never be allowed back in the country. I am here, but my heart is with her in Lebanon. Jordanian law states that if a Syrian leaves the country, they will take your I.D.,” Sa’eed says with a broken voice. “So, when my daughter left, that’s it. She can never come back to Jordan, and I cannot go to Lebanon. She cannot ever come back.”
At least for a while, hanging out with Saleem and the other men from the barbershop takes away Sa’eed’s pain. They all understand what it’s like to struggle far away from loved ones.
Donate today to help keep the barbershop going all year long. You may not be able to reunite Sa’eed and his family, but you can help to build a community at CRP.