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1) What inspired you to go to Jordan to work with Syrian refugees?
For the longest time, I repeatedly inquired about trips and opportunities I could partake in to provide aide first-hand. I worked with Syrian refugee families in my local community but wanted to help others who were not as fortunate to find a safe haven.
2) Some people fear that if refugees come to America, they will pose a threat to Americans. Did you ever witness any hostile attitudes toward America?
Ironically, all the refugee families I met, from differing nationalities, have reiterated multiple times that they do not want to come to the US or any other country. They simply want to go back home. They want to return to their original country– to their memories, their people, and their rich cultures. This illustrates that not only are they more concerned with their current situation and desire to rebuild their home countries, but that the last thing on their mind is threatening Americans. Not to mention that I was there helping them as an American and I only witnessed them show nothing but love, appreciation, and acceptance.
3) Did these refugees have any anger toward you because you were American?
No. On the contrary, they considered it a blessing that so many of us from different parts of America came to help them. Multiple people actually thanked us just for being there for them. We didn’t even do anything and they kept praising us.
4) What do you think is the most misunderstood about these refugees?
The biggest misunderstanding about refugees is that they deserve to be in this situation, or that it’s not difficult for them to be impoverished because they are less “civilized” than Westerners. These people have had everything snatched away from them in an instance. Their lives completely changed, and they went from having privileged lives to feeling like a burden on the world. These people fled for their lives from the danger they were placed in. The real issue is that many take advantage of the vulnerability of refugees as use them for political stunts.
5) What impact did this have on your life?
I appreciate everything I take for granted such as a roof over my head, clean drinking water, and an education; I value it more now as I have seen others who yearn to have such things. I know what it means to have privilege because when we would visit the families who lived in camps, in the back of our minds, we knew we were returning to the U.S. Our few hours of exhaustion would fade away but their fatigue remained. Their exhaustion has lasted six years.
6) What do these refugees want?
They want to return to a safe and sovereign country. They do not want to burden anyone or go to anyone’s country. They want safety and to provide a good life for themselves and their families.
7) What did you do for the refugees when you were there?
We met and played with refugee children who were orphans and distributed school supplies and backpacks to children for the school year. We allocated food supplies to families that live on the border of Syria and Jordan because they did not have access to the basic necessities of life. We also provided micro homes to families who are facing the worst conditions in addition to presenting a learning center for children who have been deprived of an education for multiple years.
8) If you had to convey one message to Americans about refugees, what would it be?
War is merciless, by all means. These people had futures, professions, memories, and ambitions. They are normal people with families and loved ones. No one should ever endure what they have had to endure for multiple years now. Some mothers lost their children due to the war, in some form or another. Some picked up body parts of their loved ones, some saw their children and babies be burned alive in front of their eyes. Others have been rescued from collapsed buildings, and some even lost their whole families, not just their parents. Many are completely paralyzed, some can no longer see, and many have severe illnesses. It amazes me how their faith is strong in the face of such physical and mental trauma. Many claim that they should have stayed back, but who can tell others to stay back or stay in their country when they are vulnerable and being targeted by all sides of the conflict? When you have civilians running for their lives and being attacked, don’t they deserve to find a safe haven?