Sameera, a Syrian Refugee living in Jordan, is pictured here with her daughter. Sameera was supported by a cash for work programme run by Action Against Hunger

“TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, I FOUND MYSELF.”

The project bringing hope to women in Jordan

By Action Against Hunger

Jun 19 2018

For World Refugee Day, we share the story of Sameera, who fled Syria with her family and took refuge in neighbouring Jordan. Sameera is building a new life and community with the support of Action Against Hunger.


BEFORE THE WAR

Before fleeing to Jordan, Sameera lived a comfortable life with her husband, a construction worker, and their two children, Sajeda and Ali: “In my house, I had a little garden and a little water well. I would spend all my day doing gardening work… I had all kinds of vegetables in there.”

Shortly after the conflict in Syria began, however, Sameera started to feel increasingly unsafe in her own home.


“My house was next to military barracks, and I was always scared. In the night, I would gather most of our furniture and put it behind our door, to protect my children. We could hear the sound of bullets, and one day one of the bullets went through our bathroom window.”


Worried about the psychological damage the conflict was having on her children, and concerned for her family’s safety, Sameera and her husband started to make plans to join her sister in Jordan.

But before she could get everything arranged, in 2012, her family home was hit by a rocket and almost completely destroyed. Sameera had to flee with her husband and children in the middle of the night. They crossed the border into Jordan with nothing except the clothes they were wearing.

Despite losing everything in that one night, Sameera still considers herself lucky: “Thank God, I managed to leave with my children. We escaped death.”

STARTING A NEW LIFE

Sameera and her family have since resettled in the Jordanian town of Irbid. Only 20km south of the Syrian border, Irbid is host to many Syrian families. There are very few job opportunities in the town and many who live there are struggling to earn a living. The economic situation is tough for Jordanians and Syrians alike.

Sameera’s family tried to get back to a normal routine. Her children enrolled at school and her husband was able to find work in construction. But Sameera herself struggled to adjust to her new life.


“When I came here to Irbid, I did not know anyone. It was hard, I didn’t mingle with anyone and I was scared to go out.”


Then last year, the family’s luck took another turn for the worse, when Sameera’s husband had a stroke and was no longer able to work. With no income, the family struggled to get by. Sameera knew she had to go out and find employment, but her confidence was at an all-time low.

FINDING HOPE THROUGH ACTION AGAINST HUNGER

That was when Sameera came across Action Against Hunger’s cash for work programme in Irbid. A collaboration between Action Against Hunger and GIZ, the project employed Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians on a 50-day fixed-term contract to clear up waste and rubbish in the local area. As well as paying the employees a daily rate, the project also provided Syrian refugees with a work permit valid for one year, creating a sustainable future for them and providing hope past the first 50 days.

ONE PERSON’S RUBBISH IS ANOTHER’S LIVELIHOOD

Sameera was one of the first women to sign up to the project, despite the perceived shame of rubbish collecting:


“I just wanted to earn an income. Some of the women that worked with me would lie to their husbands and children because they were ashamed. Yet, when people asked me what I did for a living, I would tell them I collect waste. I really did not care. They is no shame in working whatsoever.”


Thanks to women like Sameera, the culture of shame around rubbish collection was gradually broken down in Irbid. In February 2017 only 15 people had signed up to the project, but by December, 1,136 people had signed up, each being able to take home a wage to feed their families.

BUILDING FRIENDSHIPS

For many Syrian refugees, this was the first time they had gained an opportunity to integrate into the local community in Irbid. In Sameera’s case, the project provided her with so much more than just being able to support her family. She explains this in our video, above.

Sameera is now part of a group of women in Irbid who meet regularly and turn some of the waste products they’ve collected such as plastic and newspaper into bags, bowls, lampshades and other decorative items. They hope to start selling the upcycled products soon, and use it to help them earn an income.

In the meantime, the opportunity is helping rebuild her confidence and meet new people: “I finally felt relaxed when I saw how everyone tried to help. I did not feel like an alien anymore and this is why I felt relieved deep inside.”

sameera, right, with her colleague at the upcycling project. Behind, you can see a display of the handbags that they have produced from waste paper they have collected.
Sameera, right, with her colleague at the upcycling project, glue together a handbag they are making from recycled paper. Behind, you can see other handbags they have made, on display.

 

Action Against Hunger is supporting other families like Sameera’s, who have had to flee Syria to escape the threat of war. 

HELP US CONTINUE TO SUPPORT FAMILIES LIKE SAMEERA’S

There are so many ways to support our work and enable us to keep helping families in Jordan and in other countries across the world.

You can support Action Against Hunger by taking part in fundraising activities, attending an event, or making a donation. For every pound raised, 92p goes directly to helping people like Sameera.

Help save lives in Jordan & around the world
Help save lives in Jordan & around the world

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Image and Video Copyright: F. Dowson for Action Against Hunger