The Elders


Stories of hope and resilience in Syria

“I have seen so many people suffer. I want to come up with solutions; I want to help.” Farsidheh, 15

In the three years since Syria’s brutal civil war began, the efforts of ordinary Syrians to support each other and rebuild their lives have often been overlooked. Here we highlight some of hopeful stories that rarely make the headlines.

Cousins Zainab and Farsidheh fled to Jordan with their families after their house in Daraa, Syria, was burnt to the ground.

After missing more than a year of their education, they finally found places at a school but couldn’t afford the public transport to get there. So they joined up with other refugee girls and their mothers in the neighbourhood to rent their own small bus.

Farsidheh wants to become a doctor. “I have seen so many people suffer,” she says. “I want to come up with solutions; I want to help. I don’t want to feel powerless.”

After three years of war, many Syrian refugees find it difficult to keep hope alive. Abu, aged 13, works more than twelve hours every day so that his family can survive.

He says, “One day I want to become a pilot and only enter shops, like the one I am working in now, when I want to buy something.”

Ali calls himself “a refugee twice over”. Born a Palestinian refugee, he fled the fighting in Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria and is now in Lebanon. In order to support his family, he tutors four Lebanese children in maths, biology and chemistry, and works part-time for a refugee organisation.

In his spare time he works as a volunteer, assisting other refugee families. “You get more than you give,” he says.

Zyad and Njood have been married for twenty years. They used to live and work on a small farm in Syria with sheep, olive trees and chickens. Now they live with their three children in a tent outside Amman.

When they married, they never imagined having to spend so much time in a confined space together. “Yes, we have lost everything,” says Njood, “but we need to try and make the best out of it. And the best things for me to be happy about every single day are my husband and my children.”

Hadi, right, is a qualified lawyer. The young woman he loved and hoped to marry was shot dead in Syria. Now in Jordan, he volunteers in a centre run by Care International, helping other refugees by telling them about their rights and what support they can receive.

He transfers his own pain into strength to help his people: “I cannot watch my people suffer. I have to contribute whatever I can so they can feel hope again. Without hope one cannot live.”

In Irbid, northern Jordan, locals like Kawkab Ababneh (pictured here with her daughter) have reached out to Syrian refugees. When a refugee family moved in next door, she brought them cans of water and kitchen equipment, and helped them to enrol their children in school.

Samiha, one of the 21 Syrians who now live next door, says: “Kawkab’s friendship and support mean a lot to us. She helps us through these difficult times.” Many Jordanians are still doing all they can to support the more than half a million Syrian refugees living in their country, which is already home to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.

Ahmed Kadour works with Alwan FM, a radio station inside Syria which seeks, in his words, “to build a nation in line with the mosaic of Syria without ignoring any component of it”.

Six months ago, volunteers were giving out solar-powered radios and broadcasting from a moving van. Now the station broadcasts regular programmes with a focus on social issues like women’s and children’s rights.

As the crisis in Syria approaches its fourth year, campaigners from across the globe are rallying to step up public pressure to end the bloodshed. Find out more about the #withSyria campaign, including how to take part.

Photos: Johanna Mitscherlich | CARE; Alwan FM

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