The first thing we noticed when meeting Sulaf, Eelaf, Hamad, Hamzeh, and Shahid is their joy. The children all wore big smiles… even Muhammad, who tried to hide his. The second was their love. The siblings evidently care for each other and their parents, playing and hugging during our entire visit. The cheerful atmosphere masked a heartbreaking story.
Only two years ago, the family was living in Syria. Both parents were lawyers: the family was prosperous and happy. Life changed for them suddenly. A neighbor knocked on their door and warned them that the army was going through the community stabbing its residence. The family did not hesitate. Without even packing, they loaded the children into the family car and drove across the border to Jordan. They first lived at Zaatari Refugee Camp. In 2013, when the family first arrived, the camp was significantly overcrowded. The children remember the camp as crowded and dirty; the shared bathroom was filthy and a long walk from where they lived. After only a short time, the family sought to leave. They moved first to Zarqua, then Amman, and finally to Salt where they now live. In the course of two years, the family has lived in five different places.
However the children’s faces bore no trace of these troubled years. They wanted to tell their story and they did so frankly and without fear. When asked about their education, they were particularly excited. Sulaf, age 8, informed us that “my favorite part of school is English, Arabic, Math, art, and sports!” Sadly, for a long time these children have been prevented from enrolling in formal Jordanian schools due to challenges with identification cards that plague many refugee children. Without MECI, these bright and ambitious children would have had no access to school. It is MECI’s informal program that has inspired Sulaf’s love of every subject and inspires her creativity. Thanks to the MECI program the children will finally be enrolling in formal schools next semester. MECI has prepared these children so they will not fall behind their fellow students.
Unsurprising in such a close-knit family, the children’s education is a communal activity. Sulaf’s twin, Eelaf, clearly draws inspiration from her parents. She was eager to tell us that she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up “like [her] mom and dad!” Watching her parents, she has developed a strong and ambitious spirit. Hamad, 7, has also benefitted from his family. He struggles with Arabic class, but his older sisters are eager to help him. With their strong love and support of each other and their commitment to their education, there is no doubt that these children have bright futures.