“You have to be strong, to challenge the hardship and never give up,” says Alya*, 31, a mother of 5 children and leader of Plan International Jordan’s Syrian volunteers in Azraq Camp.
Alya has been living with her husband and children in Azraq for almost 2 years. Her journey is a testament to the powerful impact that Plan International Jordan’s programmes can have on the refugee community.
In 2015 and 6 months pregnant at the time, Alya and her family fled the conflict in their home in rural Aleppo, Syria. They reached Sater, the border area between Syria and Jordan, where they lived in a tent for the next 4 months.
Because this area was strictly controlled, there were days when Alya and her family could not access water and had to buy necessities to survive. “We had nothing, only the few small bags we brought with us from home,” she says.
Giving birth as a refugee
During her time in Sater, Alya volunteered as a teacher. She went into labour while teaching one of her classes and later gave birth in another woman’s tent to her daughter, Jude.
Shortly after giving birth, a sandstorm covered the area and she feared for the life of her new-born. They decided to leave Sater and attempt to enter Jordan, where they were confronted with a long waiting list of people also trying to seek refuge, including those who had been stuck in the Rukban border area for more than 8 months.
Their luck changed when a border guard spotted new-born Jude, completely covered in sand, and granted Alya’s family entrance to Jordan as a humanitarian emergency.
Once in Jordan, they waited to be brought to a reception area to register with the UNHCR for placement in a refugee camp. While waiting, one of their children got lost in the chaos of the crowd, and it wasn’t until a while later that they were reunited. They were then brought on a crowded truck to the reception area.
“My clothes were covered in blood because I had only recently given birth and did not have any pads,” says Alya. A female guard soon noticed her stained clothing and supplied her with pads.
After this long journey, Alya and her family finally reached safety in Azraq refugee camp.
New life as a volunteer
Alya began working with Plan International Jordan as a volunteer last year. “I feel like I am contributing to the community and helping people,” she says.
Through Plan International Jordan’s building capacity programme for its volunteers, Alya and her peers, many of whom received a limited education, have greatly improved their skills. Alya is now the leader of the volunteers on site. She shines in managing every aspect of the Plan International Jordan centre, from activities and programming to the volunteers and beneficiaries.
I feel like I am contributing to the community and helping people.
Her involvement with Plan International Jordan has also made life in the camp for her family more bearable, especially given the harsh living conditions for those without work.
“Volunteering with Plan International Jordan saved my life,” she said. “I could not imagine life here without this centre and without coming here every day.”
Alya’s children attend Plan International Jordan’s early childhood development and life skills programmes.
“My wish is to get back to Syria and to normal life and for my children to receive a good education,” she says.
*Name changed to protect identity