Bleary-eyed, I roll off my foam mattress on the floor, tug my sleeves back down to my wrists and step outside onto the overhanging, tiled balcony.
The gentle, warm breeze is a welcome change to the suffocating interior of the upstairs flat that lies above the makeshift school for Syrian refugees. It is my second day in this conservative yet rapidly changing town in Northern Jordan. Barely 20km from Syria, the population explosion that has taken place here since the war began six years ago has left local infrastructure almost unable to cope. Nationally, 1 in 10 are refugees but here it must be more than 1 in 4.
‘Yalla!’ – an Arabic call to get going breaks into my thought bubble and before I know it I’m walking with a group of friends along the street below. To the eyes of grizzled old men on flimsy plastic chairs, young boys kicking dusty balls and veiled women glancing furtively through cracked-open doors, we must look like an odd bunch. Two Arab boys and a handful of young white men and women, modestly dressed but joyfully engaging in conversation with one another. We’re led by an older face that everyone recognises as Salah, the headmaster of the refugee school set up by a church. They greet us as we pass by.
We are visiting Rasha, a teacher at the school. Arriving in her courtyard, we slip off our shoes and the men shake hands as we enter into a long and narrow living room. As the men settle on the sofas at one end, I follow Rasha and the women towards the cushions on the floor. I’m transfixed by the colourful paintings adorning the walls and after some questioning in broken Arabic, Rasha informs us that back in Syria, she was an art teacher.
As she offers round a plate of traditional sweets she has baked, she launches headlong into an unprompted yet heart-wrenching account of why her family left Syria. The weight of it leaves me feeling as muddled as when I woke up earlier today. What can I say to this woman, whose struggles know no bounds? Her husband was left with serious injuries at the hands of the Syrian police and she must now feed her large family with just $50 a week.
Rasha keeps on talking and it dawns on me that she doesn’t need to me say anything, she needs me to listen.
She tells us of the constant pressure and fear in her heart, that she cannot reveal this to her neighbours as they all see her as a strong woman from a good family. Her kind eyes well up with tears and we retreat into an inner room away from the men and children. Here in this inner sanctum, this private space, Christian and Muslim, we come to God and we pray. I, with no words and she, with no one to listen both turn to God who fulfils all our needs.
And in that moment through our common humanity, our common helplessness and our common trust in God – we find hope, أمل .
All names have been changed to protect identities. Tearfund Go have opportunities for anyone to volunteer overseas, where will you go?
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