When I teach my students the second conditional I like to use the ever amazing song, If I had a $1,000,000 by the Bare Naked Ladies. As we go around the class discussing what we would do if we each had $1,000,000 I hear the usual answers, buy a house, buy a car, give it to my mom (gotta love Arabs). When the students in turn ask me what I would do, I would usually say travel the world, help my mom and go shopping. But over the last few months I realize something has changed. Through volunteering with the Syrian refugees I am regularly struck with an annoyance at my lack of funds to be able to help. Every time I see a child with worn out shoes or recycled hair ties, families living in tents, basements and garages I wish I had $1,000,000, so that I could ease their suffering, keep them warm, and make them feel like someone cares.
The world seems to have moved on. Now that Obama isn’t interested in Syria no one is. We go through feelings like we do fashions. One day leggings are ‘in’ the next it’s leather jackets, or if you are in Jordan neon yellow everything. One day it’s Syria the next its the Philippines. I don’t mean to degrade the need of the Phillippines, my point is simply that we only care for a moment. The world moves onto the next ‘big’ story and meanwhile the people in devastation remain that way for days, months if not years to come. I do not count myself out of this habit, I am as guilty as the next. I just wonder if there is any way to change it. My sister is currently volunteering at a hospital in Gaza, and it from her stories that this sad truth has been even more present in my thoughts. Someone told her that they were happy she came, because it made them feel like they weren’t forgotten. What must it be like to suffer so much and then be forgotten? When I was a child I thought how nice it would be to buy a thousand roses and put them on all the graves in my towns graveyard that looked abandoned and forgotten. I wanted to help those that were beyond the need, simply because I found it sad that no one remembered them. Now I see people who are living, each day a struggle to the next, and they seem to have been forgotten.
The world has sympathy, and it drives people to blood banks and immediate donations,but it does not last because we do not have empathy. The world that I come from has its own battles with jobs and economies but daily needs are for the most part met if not exceeded. We have not suffered in any way close to what the people in Syria, or any place of tragedy, face daily. We cannot understand and so our sympathy wains and moves on to the next heart wrenching feature on the news. There are no words for how sad this makes me, and how pathetic I feel at my inability to change this terrible truth. The only thing that gives me comfort is spending what time I can, playing with some of these kids and reminding them that I care, even if everyone else has forgotten.
These are simply my thoughts, but here are some of my actions. I feel truly blessed to be able to give my time and energy, even if I am unable to give more than that.
Here are some of the kids I met in Zataari village, this is a mix of poor Jordanian kids and Syrian refugees. This program is run by a group called Dar al Yasmin who are doing wonderful things for many families in this area. We had a fun day of crafts, games, football and girl time.
These kids are from an area of Amman called Marka, where I am happy to be part of a team that organizes regular kid days. These are Syrian refugees lucky enough to have homes, but their school is run by volunteer women in the basement car park. On this day we made my favourite craft, a hand print rainbow, a symbol of hope for the happiness that comes after a storm. It was a wonderful day topped off with each child receiving a toy donated by children in the Czech Republic.
In my most recent adventure I organized a day for some hand picked Syrian kids from Mafraq camp. These kids all came from truly sad situations, motherless, fatherless, friendless. Here we are dancing along to some music playing musical statues.
This little (and I mean LITTLE) darling is 3 years old. Hard to believe it from her size.
This little girl hugging me tight has two brothers ( I am not 100% sure if these are both her brothers) lost their mother recently to suicide. Their father having had two wives abandoned them and is now living with his other family. They are now living with an Aunt.
My time in Amman is coming to an end, but I have a few more kids days ahead of me, the next one is in Mafraq camp, where I am also hoping to stay a few days to meet some families and see the reality of life in the camp. It won’t be an easy trip, but I hope to bring back some stories to Canada and rekindle the sympathy for Syrians. If only I had $1,000,000.