Prayers are all we can afford

By Mahmoud Shabeeb, Regional Communications Officer, CARE’s Syria response.

“We were lucky not to lose Yaman*,” says Mayyada* of her eldest son. “He was taking care of his grandfather when a bomb fell next to the room where he had just stepped, destroying the ceiling and walls next door. It was a matter of seconds. Until today, every time we hear fireworks we’re petrified.”

Mayyada’s daughter, Nada*, only 3years old, is easily scared by such noise.

“Although Nada was barely over one year when we left Syria, every time she hears fireworks she cries and runs to me or her mother,” says Mayyada’s spouse Ayman*, 45,who was a barber, before fleeing Syria in April 2013, when the bombing intensified over their neighbourhood in Dar’a.

“I had my own barbershop in Dar’a but it was attacked and burned down,” says Ayman. “I did not want to leave, but I was afraid for my family. My father is 84 and has a disability. And my children should not live in fear. My brother still lives in our neighbourhood, he told me our building has been completely destroyed.”

Before fleeing, Ayman had been detained on three occasions.

“Last time I spent 130 days in detention, and until today I don’t know what the reasons were each time..”

Ayman has health issues, however his children are his priority.

“I suffer from heart disease but I tend not to think about it because my children matter more,” explains Ayman, seated on a rotting mattress in his cold apartment in Zarqa, Jordan, with Nada on his lap.

“Nada suffers from brain malformation. Sometimes she has a severe headache and loses sight momentarily. Two of my sons, Haytham*, 15, and Ahmed*, 12, both have hormonal imbalances, they need monthly medication and blood tests, which I cannot afford. Furthermore, Ahmed suffers from anemia. One of our neighbours is a pharmacist. He helps us with free medicine, but apart from that we do not receive any healthcare.”

In some cases, Syrian refugees may have health issues with implications that they are unaware of because they lack funds for an adequate diagnosis.

In the cold winter months, many Syrian refugee families have few heating sources.

“We have one gas cylinder but we cannot refill it because we have no money. We depend on mattresses and blankets, so every night we gather tightly to warm each other,” says Mayyada. “The apartment is humid all year long, especially during the winter. It’s unhealthy, but this is the cheapest we could find and we cannot afford more expensive apartments.”

Each winter, CARE International in Jordan supports some of the most vulnerable families, assessed by CARE’s case managers, with cash assistance of approximately US$ 560 ($796 CAD) to help cover winter needs.

“We used all the assistance we received from CARE to pay the accumulated rent,” says Ayman. “We have to pay US$ 183 ($260 CAD) every month and I still owe the landlord money. When we arrived we had some money, but we spent everything we had. Life in Jordan is expensive.”

Often Syrian families come with some assets, but after being refugees for several years their resources are depleted.

While two sons, Haytham, 15, Ahmed, 12, and one daughter Aya*, 9, go to school, because of the war, Yaman, 18 stopped going to school after grade eight.

“Education is essential to our children and to us. They walk to school, about two kilometers, every day. Sometimes other children bully them, and even beat them up, but we cannot do anything about it, and they need to continue going to school,” Ayman’s voice chokes as he wipes tears from his eyes.

“We have been here for almost 3 years, but we never leave the house,” says Ayman. “We cannot even afford to visit a public park like other families. We fled oppression in Syria, but we feel oppressed here. If I were allowed to work, I would be able to take my family out and to provide for them, I would not need the assistance of others.”

Every time Mayyada sees scenes of Syria before the war on TV or in pictures, when it was as she knew it, her hope is revived.

“In each prayer I pray to God for peace, not only for Syria but for the entire world,” says Mayyada. “I pray that peace and safety prevail in this world. That is all we can afford to do, pray.”

* All names have been changed for protection purposes.

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