When you were a child and people asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” what was your response? Most kids had lofty goals, which were met with the sentiments of, “You can do anything you put your mind to!”
However, not everyone has the luxury of being what they dream of when they grow up.
Gazans from Jerash Refugee Camp in Jordan, often called Gaza Camp, face a unique set of challenges due to their refugee status. They are not considered to be citizens of Jordan or Palestine, thus they have no national IDs issued to them. Which affects their overall quality of life and what choices they are able to make related to education, work, and lifestyle.
When looking at the list of occupations these refugees are allowed to have and what is not allowed, the list is quite lengthy. Refugees from Gaza Camp in Jordan are not able to practice law, and therefore they are not able to become lawyers or judges. They cannot become teachers in public schools and are limited to teaching in UNRWA or private schools. They are not able to work as doctors, pharmacists, dentists, or nurses, or to be employed in the tourism sector or public sector in general. They cannot work in public transportation, as public bus or as taxi drivers. They also cannot work in the hospitality industry, or in banking.
So what choices are they left with?
University students from Gaza camp are treated as foreigners and thus they pay more expensive international rates to study. Gazans are not entitled to public health insurance at government hospitals, and the underfunded UNRWA route for health care is barely able to cover the general health needs of the camp. Residents from Gaza camp must be able to afford their own healthcare, especially if the services they need are not available in the local UNRWA clinic. There are currently no mental health services located inside Gaza Camp.
Gazans from Jerash Camp also cannot own or register their own houses or land. These underlying issues affect the community there as a whole, and are the basis of their socioeconomic problems causing them to struggle to survive as a marginalized community.
Arwa could be any of us.
Despite all of these challenges that people living inside Gaza Camp face, they still have hope and determination to pursue their dreams and to have a better life for themselves and their families. During my time in Gaza Camp this summer, in May and June, I had the privilege of meeting many determined people who shared their hopes and dreams with me. I would like to share the story of one young lady I met, who particularly inspired me the way she has overcome boundaries and challenges and barriers.
Arwa is a 16-year-old young lady who was born and grew up in Gaza Camp. As she entered elementary school, she did not like school and had difficulties with her English. When she was 10 years old, she started to make an effort to learn English by interacting with and learning from the international people who would come to work and volunteer in Gaza Camp throughout the year. Through her determination and motivation to do better in school and give herself better educational opportunities, she started to practice her English daily. She dreams of going to America, to study to be a doctor, so that she can help heal others. Every opportunity she gets, she tries to interact with people of different cultures to learn and grow and experience the richness that diversity has to offer. Her motivation in life is to succeed and do well, so she can eventually visit her international friends in different countries.
Arwa could be any of us. She is very creative. Yellow is her favorite color, and she loves meeting new people. She has hopes and dreams like any other girl. Arwa did not choose to be born into the world as a refugee, without basic human rights, but this is her fate. Despite the hand of cards she was dealt, she is determined and she lives by the phrase “Where there is a will there is a way.”
Whenever we get tired or begin to lose hope or don’t feel like studying or going to work, we should remember Arwa and the millions of refugees who wish they had the same opportunities you do. Never give up. Stay inspired.