As the number of Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict passes 2 million, here's an insight into the work ActionAid is doing in the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
Gazal Rizq, 29, is originally from Damascus, Syria and now works as a field mobilizer for ActionAid at Zataari refugee camp in Jordan. Here's how she describes her typical day:
“Our working day starts in the early morning when we head to Zaatari camp in Mafraq. If it's a distribution day at the camp, we start collecting details from the refugees, and we inform the street leader at the camp that we are coming - we borrow caravans to use as distribution points.
A team of volunteers, with help from us, works inside the caravans and distributes vouchers to the Syrian refugees. We have formed committees of men and women to manage distribution of women’s kits (comprising underwear and culturally appropriate women’s clothing), so that each woman knows what kind of items she will receive from ActionAid. Each voucher is worth 30 points, and allows her to choose what she wants from the clothes. As a team, we discovered that this is the best way to distribute non food items because it preserves the dignity of the people.
We spend more than seven hours with the Syrian refugees each day, with no more barriers between us. They've started sharing their personal problems and asking for our advice to solve them. One of the women refugees invited us to attend her wedding in the camp; she is dealing with us as if we are part of her family. During one of our meetings with one of the street leaders, he surprised me by telling me that he'd named his new baby girl “Gazal”!
I like that moment when a child comes to me and kisses me or smiles. It’s an emotional time for me.
But there are sad times too. Like when we heard that Abed Al-Rahman, a 12 year old, the most active and courageous kid in the camp, was forced by his father to leave his school to work as a shepherd outside the camp. It was a difficult moment for me and the entire team when we found out that we’ll not meet this kid with his stunning smile again. We really worked hard to convince him to go back to school, and in one second his father just made him a shepherd.
I love the humanitarian work I'm doing and I used to do some volunteering through my university years while I was studying sociology. I participated in many field studies, previously I worked with Palestinians in Syria, and when I moved to Jordan I started working for ActionAid as field mobilizer, which gives me a lot of experience, especially as I’m working with Syrian refugees and we come from the same social environment.
I like the spirit of participation in ActionAid, especially with the refugees and how we are including them in the selection process for their basic needs. We as an organization are always working on the ground and dealing with the refugees face to face - not in an office behind closed doors.
We are preparing for any increase in the refugee numbers - for sure we’ll face some challenges such as shortages in funding, and we already need more staff to help us in the field.”