Mark Jacobsen created this video of our volunteers working with some local refugees to make decorations for Halloween, sharing culture and learning from each other.
The video was originally posted in 2017 but we are reposting it now as a reminder of working together to keep hope alive. Refugees continue to arrive in our area and we need to be ready to help them not just with financial and in-kind aid, but also to help them feel comfortable in their new community and make friends. It is so important to engage with the refugees to make sure they are adjusting to their new homes and community and identify any problems that may need our assistance in resolving early on.
“After ten years, half of the Syrian population has been forced to flee their homes. (…) The gravity of this crisis must not weaken our solidarity for Syrians. On the contrary, we must redouble our collective effort to support both refugees and the communities hosting them. “
Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner
Ten years ago, on July 28, 2012, the Za’atari Refugee Camp opened in Jordan to shelter the Syrians fleeing the war in their home country. At the time everyone thought it would be temporary. That was ten years ago. The camp now is on the top ten list of most populous cities in Jordan with 80,000 residents – just slightly less than the population of Aqaba. This is down from the all-time high of 156,000 in 2013 before a second camp opened in Zarqa to the east, but it is still a very large population of people living in poor conditions in the middle of an open semi-desert area. It is operated by the UN and has a number of other agencies and NGOs that help on a regular basis, but they are all stretched thin due to crises in other locations around the world.
The UNHCR has put out a call to all those currently working with the camp, and those, like SCM who have helped in the past but have had to move on to other emergencies, to step up in anyway they can to stop a rapidly deteriorating situation. SCM is going to answer this call with your help.
Za’atari has transformed into a medium sized city in Jordan with 1800 shops and businesses that employ 3600 refugees. The UNHCR also helps the refugees get work permits with an aim to reduce dependency on aid, but with the economic situation in Jordan, this is very difficult. The camp has 32 schools and over 55 community centers and provides basic medical services to the refugees. Each refugee family receives some assistance, and the economic activity in the camp spills out into the local area including the nearby city of Mafraq. The aid is being converted into mobile payments to make it easier for people to get and spend the aid, and even save a bit, especially if they have a job or operate a business in the camp. But for 80,000 people, it is not enough.
In 2013 the UNHCR began replacing the tents with caravans (portable buildings) that are essentially four walls, a floor and a roof. They might have a small sink, some shelving and a storage cabinet, and mattress pads for sitting and sleeping. The lifespan of the caravans is only 6-8 years, so the majority are in urgent need of repair. These shelters have become home to the Syrians, and they are trying to make the best of them, but the structures were not meant for long-term continued use.
The economic fallout of covid is also affecting the refugees, which are allowed work permits to get jobs in most sectors in Jordan, but the lack of job openings means many remain unemployed. They are forced to depend on dwindling assistance from the UN and other agencies to survive.
Water is another issue creating hardship for the refugees. Most refugees at the camp say the water they have access to is not enough to survive on. This is a problem intensified by water shortages from the Euphrates River and extreme heat in the region. Jordan gets some of its water from Israel, and some from the Euphrates River in Syria, which is dammed by Turkey, and access is sometimes used as a bargaining chip, or threat, depending on the issue.
The camp is powered by solar power, but the camp has grown beyond the original required output estimates of the power plant, leaving the residents of the camp electricity for 9-11 hours per day. Water storage tanks are inadequate to their needs and the delivery of water to the tanks needs to be increased, especially during the hot summer months.
SCM has a plan to help refugees living in Za’atari and our goal is $75,000 to do the following:
Provide more water tanks for more families
Help with the cost of filling those tanks on a regular basis
Provide funds and/or supplies to perform maintenance and repairs on caravans
Provide supplemental nutrition to make sure children are getting enough to stay healthy
Please donate today! Any amount helps – it could help buy a water tank or provide another week’s worth of water, or it could provide the supplies to repair a caravan with a crumbling roof or wall, or it could provide food for families that have to severely cut back.
Summer new arrival Refugees multiplied Saturday! 61 adults with many excited children from 40 families came for our special supplies and the heavy bag per family of more than 25 different hygiene supplies. We were amply ready for the total 160 refugees we served on their winding road.
A bumper crop of refurbished adult and kids bikes with new helmets and locks brought lots of joy. Seeing Afghan women and girls who can now ride energized our 9 Volunteers and 4 noon reinforcement helpers. So did the 20 laptop computers we gave in canvas satchels.
It was a 3-way tie for Best with our Sewing Station – 10 new, donated sewing machines, and several used machines meant we could almost meet the prize most Afghan women sought. With lots of generously donated bolts of fabric, scissors, spools of thread, needles and sewing notions, I could have hung out there to enjoy the masked smiles had I not been checking in so many lovely Refugee Brothers and Sisters! Thanks to our four Afghan Translators and big hearted Volunteers who made this day possible. Caring Fairwood UMC Volunteers and others join SCM Medical Missions to surpass the offerings each week with surprise furnishings placed outside for new arrivals: dishes, cookware, glasses, platters, house furnishings, linens, rugs, strollers, etc. Much needed and appreciated.
The other important service here is listening to the Refugees’ resettlement concerns and sharing recommendations. This wasn’t built into the Center’s plan, but it’s grown among all Volunteers to ease the Afghans’ burdens. Whether for job searching, transportation, health contacts, rent questions, or problems, Volunteers make visits and continue helping families after the Center closes. It’s reassuring that the Refugees can call kind locals with their concerns. Though Summer’s arrival will soon conclude our assistance of supplies, we hope our impact improves many days to come for many Refugees!
Supplies were ready for our small crew of 10 Volunteers to hand out to 19 families. Afghan and some Syrian families were surprised by lots of dishes, pot and pans, bedspreads and sheets, and a variety of house furnishings that Volunteers secured and placed along the sidewalk for the taking. Inside, besides our usual many hygiene essentials, the 31 adults with their 10 children along, had a big selection of bicycles and bolts of beautiful fabrics. Sharing Wheels in Everett and Holy Spokes added to donations given from Bicycle Rescue for Youth to be ready for kids and adults seeking bikes, helmets, and locks.
Seeing uncertain Refugee faces, who enter the unfamiliar Refugee Center, brighten as they collect available supplies is really heartwarming. Eight-year-old Hafizullah was serious, tentative, and looked just like his younger sister, until his wish to get a bicycle came true. As soon as he walked in the “bike parlor”, this quiet little boy spied the perfect red and white bike and grabbed it. He was pedaling in circles, whether he’d ridden before, or his guardian angel was by his side! Hafizullah was all smiles occupied by that perfect little bike. Good our Volunteer slowed him down long enough to adjust and fasten a red, child’s helmet safely on his head.
Stocking the sewing station is challenging. All week we search, spread the request to donate sewing machines and wait to see repairs that our station Lead can make used ones hum. We never have enough for all the Afghan women who need one, but this week bolts of donated fabric provided yards worth we could cut for them. Hopefully, more machines and much more thread, scissors and notions will get donated that we’ll enjoy giving to Moms.
As Memorial Day nears, we have one last Friday at the Center before we switch to Saturdays in June. Though we served a total of 68 Refugees, counting their children and spouses at home, it will be easier for more Afghan families to come on Saturdays. We hope that potential Volunteers who work during the week will be finally be able to help too. It’s definitely still much needed and heartwarming for givers and receivers alike!
Thanks to our partners MCRC and Essentials First for all their help in gather donations and supplies for the center!
Shop for the refugees on our Amazon Wish List and have the items shipped directly to SCM.
If you have a sewing machine to donate (new or used in good working order), please contact us to arrange drop-off details.
Announcement! Beginning on Saturday June 4th, our Refugee Center days at the Fairwood Community United Methodist Church will be on Saturdays rather than Fridays. This will give more people an opportunity to volunteer and the refugees who are working an opportunity to come in and get supplies they need.
We are also in need of hygiene items ASAP:
~Underwear (Girls 8 and 4; Women’s 5,6,7; Men’s M, L, XL) ~Bottled or powder Laundry Detergent ~Brushes & Combs ~Baby Wash ~Spools of black & white Thread
If you have any of these items and wish to donate them please contact us for drop off information.
SCM did a distribution last week in Jordan that included hand-made dolls, stuffed animals, wheelchairs and crutches. These were sent over last year in a container to our warehouse in Jordan. Thank you to the people who donated the toys and the medical equipment!
One nonprofit needs volunteers to repair 40 kids bikes for refugees. Another agency could use cash gift cards.
By Ben Watanabe Monday, May 16, 2022 1:30am
Refugees fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Ukraine arrive in Snohomish County with what they can carry.
That means they don’t have a set of wheels, or a driver’s license.
But they have to get around like everyone else.
“When they left the country, they brought whatever they could carry on their back. That’s what they have,” Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest executive director Van Dinh-Kuno said. “When they arrive to our county, they all need transportation.”
It can take two to three months for a newly arrived refugee proficient in English to get a driver’s license, Dinh-Kuno said. For those who don’t speak English well, it can take a year.
Plus they need time to get a job and save money to buy a vehicle.