SCM’s representative in Lebanon, Ali Osseiran, has been busy with his team organizing distributions for the goods that finally arrived there – after almost a year in bureaucratic limbo. The first of several distributions took place in a town east of Saida called Mesh Elhabaes.
The donations distributed included blankets and quilts, medical equipment, walkers and crutches, hygiene supplies, clothing and toys. These are people hit hard by the economic collapse in Lebanon. They are getting basic supplies from SCM that they would otherwise have a hard time, or not be able to find at all.
We will have more photos from our distributions over the next few weeks so you can see that your donations are getting into the hands of refugees and people hit hard by the economic troubles of the country.
“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!
Neither Easter nor Ramadan slowed the stream of new Afghan Refugee parents and children. We were ready with provisions for Friday’s 20 families comprising 88 refugees of 42 adults and their 46 children. Met by 15 Volunteers, SCM Founder Rita and Translator Khayam, 32 parents with 14 kids came in the Center to receive lots of hygiene essentials, school supplies, computers, sewing machines and surprise Eid Celebration kits for children.
While we offer loads of clothes, when I think of the collections of “hygiene essentials” and the “Donors” (individual, nonprofit and corporate), it floods me with gratitude. This is kindness pouring out week after week because people really care about the plight and needs of the Refugees.
Our essentials for whole families: diapers; underwear; socks; baby wipes, wash, lotion and shampoo; adult body wash and bar soap; feminine sanitary pads; shampoo and conditioner; brushes and combs; toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss; deodorant; razors; reader glasses; nail clippers; cleaning products – bottles of liquid dish and laundry detergent, and cleanser. Sometimes we even have nail polish, cosmetics or jewelry to make the day a little brighter for the women.
This Hygiene Corner bulges with special extras: handmade quilts for the children, fabric “dolls for hope”; a big assortment of school supplies, color books, and often backpacks. Just past this station is a large toy area that includes stuffed animals and books that entertain children while parents get their “toys” – bicycles and helmets, laptops, or sewing machines, notions and fabric, depending on what Donors have sent us.
Committed Donors are Bicycle Rescue for Youth that serves Maple Valley and Issaquah, Covington Kiwanis Club, Sharing Wheels from Everett, Mel Nason’s Holy Spokes and Harvey’s Bike Shop in Lynnwood. Essentials First often helps us with hygiene products and joined in furnishing Eid Celebrations kits. For desperately needed laptops, Starbucks donated generously. Early learning KidsCentre in Seattle has showered us with school supplies and backpacks.
Equally impressive are places of worship who regularly contact us with help. This giving is matched by individuals who surprise us by quietly bringing needed items and gift cards, so we can replenish to meet the needs of all new arrival Afghan Refugees every week.
We can only say Thank You, Thank You to all who give and volunteer. Don’t forget them. And, don’t forget the needs of the Refugees!
As the end of Ramadan approaches, SCM has been busy distributing food, supplies, clothing and toys to local refugee families and to those in Jordan and Lebanon. Thank you to all who have donated and to our teams in Lebanon and Jordan. Our teams organize and conduct the distributions so SCM can help as many people as possible. It’s not too late to donate for Ramada, so please visit our Donation page.
Here are just a few photos from the various distributions.
Ramadan begins next month on the 12th of April. Please join us in providing food to refugees here in the Seattle area as well as in Jordan and Lebanon. We will be distributing packages of food for families of 4-5 that will have basic necessities such as salt, sugar, beans, pasta, cooking oil, tinned meat, tea, and more, and will feed them for a month.
Ramadan Food Drive Goal: $10,000
We have already begun distributions of clothing for refugees living in Jordan and women from Daraa and also from Damascus came to our warehouse to pick out clothing for themselves. It was Mother’s Day in the Middle East so we had a special distribution for them. Thank you for your donations for our shipping containers as well as monetary donations that enabled this to happen. Don’t forget we have another container going out soon and you can check or previous post for the needed items for that container.