The Za’atari refugee camp closely neighbors the Jordanian city of Mafraq, which is only about 10 km from the Syrian border. Due to its proximity to the border, Mafraq’s population has more than tripled over the past year and a half. The need for relief in this city is desperate.
Although we spent some time in the Za’atari Refugee Camp itself, we hoped to be able to reach other Syrians refugees who although they were not living in the camp, found themselves in equally dire situations. Our final week in the Middle East culminated in a four-day workshop series which was held at the CMA church in Mafraq. We are very thankful to the church for providing us with the space and help to carry out what turned out to be a very fulfilling workshop series.
Because the group of kids we worked with was so large, we spent time each day singing songs and doing activities as a large group, then we split the kids up into age and gender-specific smaller groups. This gave the kids a chance to know get to know each other better, and to be able to relate to each other more openly. Each day the small group time was focused on a specific activity; one day we had the kids come up with their own skits about things they liked, using only actions and no words. The next day each group composed their own rhythm using clapping, or drumsticks, and on the third day each group composed their own song.
Self-expression is the first step in creating positive interaction, but listening to others and valuing them is a key to creating fruitful dialogue and community. So, after each small-group time each day, we came together as a large group to give each small group a chance to perform what they had come up with that day.
At the end of the four days, we held a “Haflah” (party) or performance which the kids brought their families to. The performance consisted of the kids performing the songs they had learned at the group performances they had invented.
After four days, I really felt as if these young people had a great impact on me. Although they had suffered much and had perhaps experienced very difficult circumstances within the home as well as without, these children had a certain light about them. Perhaps it is the hope they cling to that someday their lives will be better, that someday they will be able to return to their homes. They were overjoyed at the smallest things, and were eager to participate and interact. They came back each day eager for more. Seeing these young lives full of hope and promise, pushing ahead regardless of the obstacles, is not only an encouragement to me, but it made me realize how much I have been blessed and how much I truly have to be thankful for in my own life.
If you are the praying sort, please keep these precious children in your heart and prayers.