I stepped off the plane in Amman, Jordan expecting to be broken by the stories of the refugees we were scheduled to meet. The news articles, books, and documentaries painted a picture of vast destruction throughout the Middle East-more than 10 million people displaced in 7 years, more than 400,000 dead. I prepared for the trip by imagining the worst. The last thing I expected to find was an abundance of hope, and yet, it was found at each turn.
Our team of 9 worked with Willow's church and non-profit partners in Jordan who faithfully serve Syrian and Iraqi refugees. We hoped to listen and learn, provide respite for volunteers, and encourage those who have fled for their lives.
One day we visited the Zaatari Refugee Camp to learn from QuestScope, the only NGO with offices inside the camp. The founder, Dr. Curt, believed that people should be viewed as part of the solution, not the problem, and that belief was demonstrated in every inch of QuestScope's facility.
QuestScope provides relief for the upheaved life of a refugee through education, learning, art, music, sports, games, and mentoring. Each room in their youth center was proudly run by a Syrian refugee from the camp-they do, after all, know what it feels like to be in the shoes of those they serve.
We toured each room, listening to the stories and feeling the passion of those who teach that youth of Zaatari. When we entered the library, a group of 7 teenage girls giggled, excited to show us their favorite space. We sat in the tiny library as they explained each bookshelf and its contents.
One girl nervously took a pink journal out of her bag and passed it around. Finally, they spoke up. "We come here every day. We made journals so that we could write our stories. And one day, we want to write a book."
They continued to tell us how they met. Two of them were neighbors when they first moved to the camp five years ago. Another they met in school. Then there were the twins-all the girls thought there was only one girl they saw everywhere, but now they can tell them apart. The girls are inseparable; they go to the library each day, they play on the soccer team, they share their lives together.
I asked them who was the funniest in the group, and they all immediately laughed and stared at the most outspoken one. Then I asked who the biggest rule follower was. They looked at each other, pondering who they could call out. One of the quieter girls chimed in:
"None of us. We are all for one, and one for all."
My silly question led to a deeply profound proclamation of friendship and comradery: All for one, one for all. These teenage girls were from different areas of Syria, all driven out by a war that now weaves their stories. They stand together, encouraging each other to process and write their story. When asked if their stories would be separate books, they said, "No. It is one story, we are in this together."
Written by Liz Schauer.
This Celebration of Hope, you can learn more about what refugees experience and find ways to support them. Stop by the Middle East section in the lobby to find ways to get involved! Click here to learn more about Celebration of Hope, which continues April 21/22.