Leila*, 7, at a Save the Children Kindergarden at Azraq camp, Jordan.
“I choose safety over comfort.” It cannot be an easy choice to make, but that is what Dina*, a Syrian mother living in a shelter of metal and tarp in Azraq Refugee Camp with her family of 6, shared with me. She had started to explain why she chose to stay in Jordan rather than return to her home country.
A mother’s strength is a powerful force, and Dina’s* was no exception. I met her at her home at Azraq Camp during a visit to see Save the Children’s on-site Early Learning Center in Jordan. She fled Syria with her husband and two eldest children in 2014, leaving behind her parents and the life she once knew to seek refuge from the ongoing, multifaceted civil war that first erupted in her home city of Dara’a more than 8 years ago.
It was a privilege to spend time with this family, and I’m glad that Dina* and her children all benefit from Save the Children’s Early Learning Centers at Azraq Camp. Her youngest son is currently enrolled in the high-quality program, where he is taught by a Save the Children staff member and a trained Syrian volunteer – and Dina* is one of those volunteers! Not only do these programs teach the 3-4-year-olds born in the camp letters, numbers, art, hygiene and kinesthetics – they also provide employment opportunities and skills training to adult refugees. Dina* said she never imagined that she would work outside of the home, but she feels fulfilled by helping to foster young children’s learning in the classrooms.
Save the Children’s early learning programs don’t stop there, either. The staff also makes an effort to educate parents on how to be the best they can be. Each week, sessions are held where mothers and fathers learn how to support their kids’ development and keep them safe at home.
As I witnessed, the holistic approach of these programs has given families like Dina’s* the resources they need to survive and thrive in the most unfair and difficult situation imaginable.
Before leaving Azraq Camp, I asked Dina* what message she would like me to take home to the United States. She responded saying she wanted me to spread the message that refugee children are worth our investment. If we don’t invest in programs that help them succeed, an entire generation of Syrian children and all their infinite potential will be lost. These children are the future, and we cannot afford to let that happen.
*Name changed to protect her identity