Walking 10,000 steps is our recommended daily dose. According to livescience.com, it adds up to be about 5 miles. Now, let’s walk from Washington, D.C. to Charlotte, N.C. This is approximately 329 miles or 658,000 steps. If you look up a conversion chart is says 311 miles. Close enough.
You are probably wondering the reason for all of the calculations, right?
Life is easier to understand when you can relate it to something familiar.
From Aleppo, Syria to Amman, Jordan it is 302 miles or 604,000 steps. This is just one example as to how far a human being will walk for safety.
Many of us don’t know how we would feel if we were forced to leave everything we know and hold true behind us because of civil war. Behind you to keep yourself safe; to keep your family safe.
The truth is:
None of us know what we would do. If walking a few hundred miles to safety is our only option, then, I guess we would be walking. I hope I would find a humanitarian like Nora on the other side. This is her perspective. This is her Bit of Humanity.
Question and Answer with a Humanitarian
Syria’s civil war started in March, 2011. Hafez al-Assad took control of the country in 1970. He ruled for 30 years. Bashar al-Assad is his son and the current president of Syria.
Q: What keeps you balanced?
A: I think my source of grounding is my daughter. I will live my life 100%. I will take the bull by the horns. That’s how I live my life. I want to experience everything around me, no matter what state. I see people dying for freedom. I will use it to live my life. I want to expose my daughter to all the things in the world. I want to use it to be happy. When I look at my daughter, she is innocent. She has a positive view of the world.
Q: What is your familial tie to the crisis in Syria?
A: I am Syrian. I left as a young girl with my family.
Q: What are the physical conditions of the refugee camps which you try to assist?
A: “Nobody formally takes care of them.”
They are considered informal camps, not run by any organization such as UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) or Mercy Corps. The conditions are unbearable; no running water. They can’t even take in any more people. Upon arrival, they build make shift towns with tents, plastic bags and scraps of clothing. They were able to get over the imaginary line to save their life.
*Nora compared these make-shift towns to the term “shantytown.” My first thought is the description in Grapes of Wrath when Steinbeck describes “Hoovervilles.”
National organizations are aware of the issue, but they are doing the best they can as well. Representatives are assisting with the effort.
Q: Where does the funding come from?
A: “Cash is king.”
Individual people help with the effort. Catherine Ashcroft started, Helping Syrian Refugees in Jordan in November of 2011.
Where the money is used:
- Donations from Ashcroft’s relief effort have help transform garbage trucks into collection trucks which go twice a week to pick up donations from shoe and clothing drops.
- Helping Syrian Refugees in Jordan also brings people abroad to assist with the effort. These individuals raise money before going as well. Cash is ideal.
- Items which help the most: clothes, heaters and food.
- The organization purchases heaters which have an auto shut-off feature if touched as well as a two-year warranty.
- The organization sponsors a refugee catch up school and sponsors a teacher for a year at $250 per month. Syrians are specifically hired.
- $600 month: provide two boxes every week, with food: beans, pasta, lentils, diapers, dry milk/powdered milk.
Q: What are the conditions in these camps?
A: Many have been in these camps for five years. They’ve given up. Amman is the capital of Jordan with many Syrians living in the surrounding suburbs. There are widowed women with 2 to 5 kids each. They live in a room with a hole in the ground for a bathroom. Blankets are used as carpet, seals for windows, bedding and furniture.
One specific circumstance:
There are 15 widowed women in a suburb of Amman. They live together with at least 2 widows sharing a room. Jordanians own the house and rent to them at a high cost. These women are registered with United Nations but little can be done.
In Nora’s words,
They feel like dirt. They feel like they are begging. Always begging to survive. Live in a merciless world. These people lived dignified before this.
These informal camps are in dire need of money. The water is disgusting. There aren’t any showers. There is an effort to vaccinate. Jordan’s water supply is limited as is the electricity. Winter is the rainy season.
They are drenched in water.
Widows are left without skills. There are many orphans. This crisis puts a huge weight on the Jordanian government. Syrian labor is cheaper than Jordanian labor. It’s affecting their infrastructure.
Q: What is the morale?
A: The basic tone is a mixture of emotions. People feel hopeless and forgotten. They want to go home.
They want to go back to Syria. The people are fed up and exhausted, but they are persevering.
Q: What would you like to see happen?
A: All of them want to go back home. It was oppressed, but they were living. They can’t go back because it is not safe. In order to come to the United States, the United States Embassy in Amman holds a rigorous interview process. The people are lined up to get interviewed.
I would see them and it was so heartbreaking.
Q: Would they rather go back and rebuild or move on and try somewhere else?
A: “There isn’t any opportunity for rebuilding.”
Q: Either way: how do they start over?
A: “They are beyond resilient people.”
They are determined to rebuild. Even if they are pessimistic, they are determined to start over.
One family at a time. Rebuilding starts with being human again; to have shelter, an income, a job. Earning what you have allows you to start over and feel like a human again. They are ashamed to have to need handouts. They want to work and contribute to society.
An example of going back to work with the circumstances surrounding them:
Catherine Ashcroft hired a woman to train Syrian women to make scarves in one of the tent cities. The scarves sell for $10 a piece.
Walking with the Helpers
Walking 10,000 steps is our daily recommendation. We have water waiting for us when we are finished. We have a hot shower to cleanse our bodies. We have food and shelter. Life situations are easier to understand when placed in a familiar context. We have the power to voice our opinion. We have the power to be the helper.
There is a quote from Mr. Rogers’ mother which says, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” The good in humanity chooses to help thy neighbor. The refugees in Jordan who fled Syria in order to live another day, exhibit these qualities on a daily, moment to moment basis. The good in humanity gives a blanket for comfort to those who do not have one.
If you ever get a chance to meet someone like Nora, you will feel the energy and determination within their soul. Nothing good ever came from hate and fear. Nora might have been one of the millions of refugees had her life turned out a bit different as a child. These people, these humans are fleeing with their lives; no clothing except what they wear. No food, no security. They are walking, swimming, running with the hope they will find solace in a new place, once they get over the imaginary border into a surrounding country because despite the odds, humans persevere. We keep going. We keep walking. Stay beautiful!
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