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Refugee Week: Independent Woman Stories of the refugees of the Middle East and Greece: Part 1

Refugee Week: Independent Woman -

They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons. They are granddaughters, grandsons, nieces, nephews, husbands, and wives. They have hopes, dreams, passions, and wishes for themselves and their families.

They are refugees, but they are so much more than their refugee status.

In my travels to the Middle East and Greece to provide health care and humanitarian aid to refugees and those less fortunate, I have come across many lovely people who are refugees from Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Kurdistan, and Afghanistan – and they have so many stories to share. I am hoping to highlight in this series the stories of the refugees that I have met, their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I want to give them faces and names and let their voices be heard. So that they are not just numbers to you.

On my most recent visit to Jordan, I had the joy of spending time in the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan and also visiting the Souf Refugee Camp. The Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash is home to over 24,000 Palestinian refugees from Gaza who came to Jordan in 1967 after the war. Over half of the population of the camp is children. In talking with the mothers, I have come to realize the challenges that the children face regarding the refugee camp environment in which they grow up. They want nothing more than to play and grow just like other children do. They taught me a game called Laila Ya Laila and we played on the playground in the refugee camp nursery, which is in dire need of renovation. Those precious children try to make the best of what they have been given as their circumstances.

They are refugees, but they are so much more than their refugee status.

When I visited Souf Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan, I had the pleasure of meeting a delightful lady who is old enough to be my grandmother. She is 74 years old and was born in Palestine, in Hebron (Al-Khalil), but moved to Jordan to the refugee camp when she was just 8 years old. She was telling me about her life before she moved to Jordan and what her life is like now in the refugee camp. Due to her disability – she is paralyzed from the waist down and cannot walk – she stays in bed, which is in her living room. She cooks, does laundry, and does dishes from her bed.

When I went to visit her it was the month of Ramadan, and she was describing to me how she prepares the meals from her bed. Her pots and pans and spices and coffee and tea and everything she needed to cook with were around her, within an arms reach. She told me that she washes the laundry by hand and gives it to her son to hang to dry on the line outside the house. Despite her refugee status, despite her disability, despite not having the energy she used to have when she was younger, she was determined to maintain her independence as much as she could and make the most of these years of her life. It brought me such joy and hope to talk to her, to draw strength from her resilience and unbreakable spirit.

Refugee Week: Independent Woman -

“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” – Quran (2:177)

I will be continuing to share stories of the refugee children and families I have met, with the hopes that I can inspire other people to get involved as humanitarians. I want to show these refugees that the world has not forgotten them.

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Refugee Week: Independent Woman -

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