Syrian professionals, now refugees, search for work

Since conflict erupted in Syria in 2011, CARE has been supporting refugees and host families in surroudning countries. We distribute essentials like blankets, food and other household items as well as cash distribution so people can buy food and other necessities, pay rent and bills, seek medical care and more. We also run support centres for refugees, where Syrian families have received relief items and information on obtaining health care and other services.

Below are three short profiles of Syrian refugees living in Jordan. They are all professionals who, having fled the war, now struggle to make ends meet. Meet Buthaina, Fayez, and Yaman.

All profiles and photos by Mahmoud Shabeeb, Regional Communications Officer for the Syria Response, CARE International

Buthaina: Despite war, a mother shares her love of music

During her studies at the Higher Music Institute in Syria, 23 year-old Buthaina volunteers as a music teacher for students in grades one to seven.

“I play the piano, accordion, flute, and oud (an Arabic string instrument similar to a guitar). I gave classes in schools,” Buthaina says.

Today, as a refugee in Jordan, she is no longer teaching, though she continues to coach her daughter, 6 year-old Ru’a, in piano.

“I try to give my daughter the best that I can give her. I have a piano at home that I bought, and I teach her how to play it. Ru’a is in the first grade. During the summer holiday, I bring her to CARE’s community center and enroll her in the recreational activities.”

Buthaina misses her husband, Naim, who remained in Syria. There is nothing about life in Syria that she doesn’t miss.

“I miss my family, my home country, my work, I miss everything.”

Buthaina lost relatives and neighbours in the war, including her aunt and young cousins.

“They were hiding from shelling in an underground shelter when a bomb dropped on it, so it collapsed on them. They were buried alive.”

In February 2013, Naim told Buthaina to flee Syria with her in-laws for her safety and the safety of their daughter.

Fayez, a Syrian refugee looking for work in Jordan

Fayez: “I used to give money as charity. Now I depend on it.”

Fayez was a lawyer in the Syrian city of Dara’a before fleeing to Irbid, Jordan in 2012 with his wife, three of their grown children, and his sister. Despite being well educated, three of his sons could not find opportunities as refugees in Jordan, and made the difficult decision to cross into Europe by boat. His sons now live in Germany.

“In Syria I maintained a good, respectable life for my family,” says Fayez. “I had enough income for my family to live in dignity, and I provided for my sisters as well. I used to give charity to others, but now I myself am dependent on charity, and it hurts.”

Now Fayez must survive on monthly UNHCR (Uniited Nations Refugee Agency) payments and assistance from other aid organizations like CARE.

Fayez and his family brought little with them, only their limited savings and a case with their education certificates and other official documents.

Today Fayez lives with his family in a village on the outskirts of Irbid, where accommodation costs are lower.

“Like many Syrians that we know, we live in a basic, small apartment,” explains Fayez. “Sometimes our landlord doesn’t take the rent from us, but sometimes he does. We often rely on charity to pay the rent.”

Yaman, a Syrian refugee trying to find work in Jordan

Yaman: “There are no doctors anymore.”

“In Syria there are many areas where there are no doctors anymore because of the conflict.”

Yaman is a doctor from Dara’a, Syria who has been living in Jordan with his wife, mother, and two young children since January 2013.

“The vast majority of Syrian middle class professionals have left the country. They have either immigrated elsewhere or became refugees in other countries. Consequently, every day there are more casualties caused by the war and few doctors who can treat them.”

Since arriving in Jordan, Yaman has volunteered with CARE and other organizations. Nevertheless, as a volunteer the stipend he receives is very low compared to his expenses. And as a refugee, the 37 year-old cannot practice medicine in Jordan.

“At the beginning of the conflict in Dara’a there were many demonstrations. Heavy shooting was used to break them up. A curfew was imposed, that was the most difficult time in Dara’a during the conflict. We had to stay at home. All workplaces had to close. Sometimes we were not allowed to leave the house for a week or ten days. After a month under curfew, the bombing intensified and there were home invasions by militants. One day, the building next to us was bombed and collapsed. We could no longer stay under these circumstances so we left Syria in January 2013.”

Yaman and his family were worried that they might draw unwanted attention when they fled, so they only carried the essentials with them, such as their academic certificates and a change of clothes.

“We had a good life in Dara’a before the war. I owned an apartment where I lived with my family, it was small but very comfortable,” explains Yaman.

Yaman is not optimistic about the immediate future.

“Returning to Syria is more of a wish than a hope for me. I dream of the day when we can return, but I don’t see it being possible any time soon. Everything is unknown. I don’t even know if our apartment or the building we lived in is still standing or has been destroyed like so many others in the neighbourhood.”

What does Yaman miss the most?

“I miss my work very much. I miss practicing my specialty. I miss meeting my friends and colleagues and hanging out every day. Life here is more normal than others’ lives (in the war back in Syria), but it is not even close to what our life was like in Syria in before the war.”

Learn more about CARE's response to the crisis in Syria >>