By Toby Fricker
Za’atari, Jordan, 18 July 2013 – When the war came to their doorstep, 17-year old Hanadi and her family fled their home in Damascus. For one year they moved across Syria to escape the violence.
Three months ago they finally crossed the border to safety in Jordan. With it came an overwhelming sense of relief. But life in Za’atari, like any refugee camp, is tough.
“When I came here I faced lots of challenges,” said Hanadi. “The first month I didn’t go to school because I didn’t know about it and I was very sad. The second thing that bothered me was that I had no friends so I didn’t go out.”
School provides hope
Hanadi now attends one of the two schools in Za’atari. In her classroom there is a sense of focus. The girls, aged between 16 and 17, realise the importance of education for their future and that of their country.
Hanadi is relieved that she can at least continue her schooling, “I didn’t expect that I would study here but thank God there are schools here.” She is determined to do well to realize her dream of becoming an architect. Young people, like Hanadi, will play a key role in rebuilding Syria.
When classes finish, the dusty two-kilometer walk home begins. Hanadi now has friends. Rana and Isra are in her class and live close to her family in the camp that now houses some 120,000 Syrians.
Outside of school finding things to do is a challenge, particularly for the thousands of young people in the camp. Around half of Za’atari’s population is under the age 18.
“The youth don’t have anything to do,” said Hanadi’s father, Anwar. “Sometimes they just hang about in the heat, in the sun, between the caravans and fight each other because they are frustrated and feel pressure. “
Hanadi and her friends spend time and chat at a nearby playground. They look far too old to be there. But there are limited alternatives. “We do our homework, we play and go to school together. We want more than that,” said Hanadi. She wants to learn English.
Preparing for a future back in Syria
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNICEF, has established a new youth center that targets young people such as Hanadi.
Those aged 14 to 25 will be able to take part in writing and mathematic classes, as well as studying English and IT skills. Classes offering vocational training will go hand-in-hand with recreational activities, such as drawing and football. The programme ultimately aims to enable youth to better deal with their experiences of war and displacement.
For young people, such opportunities will at least help them make the most out of an extremely tough situation. Hanadi’s thoughts rarely leave her home country. “In Syria, the things I miss most are my friends, my house, the streets, the markets, and everything. I even miss my aunts, my relatives and family and everyone,” she said. “My main hope is to get back.”