Advent calendar – December 13

computer workshop

Young women in a Peace Oasis computer workshop. Photo: LWF/ M. de la Guardia

LWF Peace Oasis in Za’atari refugee camp offers hope for young refugees from Syria

“The LWF programs are useful because they help us to achieve our goals,” says Sumayah Hassan Al-Salem. The 19-year-old is a refugee from Syria and one of the participants of the office management courses at The Lutheran World federation (LWF) Peace Oasis in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan.

Al-Salem is originally from Homs, Syria. Considered the stronghold of Syrian protest and later resistance against the Assad government, the city was heavily assaulted by the Syrian government forces.  Sumayah Al-Salem was a young girl when it all started; she grew up between frequent bombings, police raids, power and water cuts until the family decided to leave. Together with nine family members she found refuge in Jordan. Today she recalls the journey as extremely difficult, the family had to travel through the cold and sleep in the wilderness. The situation was especially difficult for Sumayah, who was ill at the time.

A new home in Za’atari

Eventually, the family found a new home in Za’atari camp, a city of tents, container cabins and even small shops in the Jordanian desert. In the 5th district, there is the LWF Peace Oasis, a psychosocial center for young people aged 14-30 years. Fleeing war and living in a refugee camp for years without the prospect of returning in the near future is extremely stressful especially for the young people. Many of them feel like they are wasting time and spending formative years of their lives in a waiting room. This leads to feelings of stress, depression and tension.

“I want improve my skills to find a job in the future and earn money. I hope to become an expert in everything related to computers and to complete my studies. Before I took the course I was very shy but now I am more outgoing and have learned to express my opinion.”

Sumayah Hassan Al-Salem, 19, refugee from Syria

The LWF Peace Oasis provides a safe space to address these feelings, to discuss and deal with them. Though arts and crafts, music and sports workshops, the Peace Oasis provides the means for the young people to express themselves. Training workshops like computer, hairdressing and sewing which enable them to start a business and have some income, but also discussions and sessions about peaceful conflict resolution and dealing with stress and tension in the camp. The program is devised and facilitated by refugees, who thus become ambassadors for peace in the camp.

Planning for the future

“I want improve my skills to find a job in the future and earn money,” Sumayah Al-Salem says. “I hope to become an expert in everything related to computers and to complete my studies.”

For many young people, the workshops are also one of few opportunities to interact with peers. “Before I took the course I was very shy but now I am more outgoing and have learned to express my opinion,” Al-Salem says.

As their refugee status means they are not allowed to work in Jordan, the computer classes help young people to pass the time, learn new skills and also to provide additional income for their families. Like LWF, many aid organizations in Za’atari employ refugees, but they often require office management and basic computer skills. Peace Oasis courses have also allowed participants to continue their formal education, which often has been interrupted by war and displacement.

“The courses are useful so we decided to send our children to LWF,” Al-Salem’s parents say. “The courses help our daughter to achieve her dreams and contribute to her community. She was suffering and has mental problems because of her disease. After this course she became good in dealing with others and likes to be with her friends more than before.”

Some 80,000 refugees have found sanctuary in Za’atari Camp as the war in Syria rages. Oxfam noted it has become the fourth largest city in Jordan presenting dire circumstances for families as they struggle to meet basic needs. LWF Jordan has consistently provided psychosocial support and educational opportunities for families in the camp since 2012 through Peace Oasis programming. Each year, about 2,600 young people profit from the courses and workshops.

Posted with permission from The Lutheran World Federation. Originally posted on the LWF website.

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