Went to Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan today. Official population at 53,967, according to @UNHCR as of February 2018. All Syrian #refugees.

In many ways it was not what I expected.
First thing you notice is how remote the location is — some 100 kms east of Amman; 20 kms from Azraq town; 75 kms to Saudi Arabia; 255 kms to Iraq; and 90 kms to the Syrian border — from which its inhabitants fled.
At the same time, the harshness of the setting — a hardscrabble, sprawling 15 square km patch, scratched, etched and stretched out of endless rolling desert.

The perimeter was equally formidable, with security fencing, official patrols, check points and razor wire.
While the security situation has its requisite precautions, it underscores the desolate status of those displaced into a neighbouring country by the ravages of unrelenting conflict raging in their homeland: They live as stationary sojourners in lands not their own — as #refugees
(The Al Asraq Refugee Camp in Jordan is indicated in these screenshots, and highlighted by the lower right red tent icon in the last picture here.)
I will need to pick up this thread after a while as I now leave Jordan to begin my journey home. — Even as I write that sentence it hammers my skull that these #refugees — with dreams, fears, hopes, & aspirations not so unlike my own — would defy death to dare to journey #home.
For I am fortunate enough as a Canadian to possess these golden keys.
But as I prepare to board my flight could I leave you with two things?
The first is a promise that I have some truly uplifting elements to share about my experience— things that give me hope & courage.
The second is a request. That you pray for & care enough to help #refugees?
Back on solid ground. Let’s carry on into the #refugee facility.
The first place we visited was the hidden hearth of the communities. It is known as the “Healthy Kitchen”, wherein nutritious— even tasty! — meals are made for the camp’s 8,000 schoolchildren in 5 schools each day.
Under the leadership of @WFP & the Govt of #Jordan, this joint @UNICEF @WorldVision @unwomen initiative has produced and delivered more than 326,000 meals to #Syrian #children across five schools within the Al Azraq #refugee camp.
The pastries are baked fresh each morning, with the croissant-like puff options including cheese, pizza — or in this day’s selection, a delicious melange of thyme & cheese.
The produce is fresh and nutritious. Each bag is stamped with the meal’s nutritional values & calories.
Not only does the Healthy Kitchen provide meals for the community’s children, it also serves as a vital source of #employment, skills training, empowerment & dignity for the 141 #refugees who work in Al Azraq’s two kitchen facilities.
(By the way — isn’t the hairnet / surgical mask combo an epic fashion statement? The things we do for love. :)
The #refugee staff who do an amazing job of running a tight ship in 2 kitchens include:
12 Bakers (yeah, a literal Bakers Dozen)
12 Bakers Assts
28 Cleaners
30 Washers
30 Packers (not Green Bay, but certainly as devoted as their fans)
4 Drivers
4 Supervisors
21 Food Distributors
As testament to the dedication of employees in the @wfp Healthy Kitchens school feeding program for 1000’s of children in schools across Al Asraq & Za’tari #refugee camps in Jordan, I came across this letter posted on the wall by the local @WorldVision #Syria Response Director:
As we wrap the Healthy Kitchen tour to explore another aspect of the camp, the prominent display of such @wfp feedback/hotline posters is an example of accountability systems in place so comments can be registered, concerns & complaints attended — as well as ideas encouraged.
As I need to board another plane, here’s a sneak peek of what’s up next as we engage with some amazing children in Al Azraq #refugee camp.

This thread traces aspects of Azraq, a sprawling camp designed for 50,000+ of the 655,000+ #Syrian refugees currently in #Jordan alone.
Just as we need to meet the nutritional needs of #refugee children, like any other child or teenager, they also need safe spaces to #play, exercise, learn skills, develop teamwork, dexterity, agility, stamina, speed — and how to intercept, trap and tackle on the #football pitch!
Obviously, in this I have nothing to teach these #Syrian teens in Azraq #Refugee camp — who run circles around me & my checker-shirted @worldvisioncan mate @efrans!

Truly, we have much to #learn about #life, let alone soccer, from kids who’ve survived #war zones & keep on going.
This is one of the unexpected lessons from my experience with kids, parents, teachers & caregivers in #refugee camps: #children are phenomenally resourceful, resilient and #strong. They can overcome staggering odds, if given half the chance.

And they can teach us, if we listen.
If you venture inside the @ADH102030 funded @WorldVision Early Childhood Education & Life Skills preschool — one of a number of #education centres & #schools inside the Al Azraq #refugee camp — be(e?) prepared for a hive of activity, action and excitement!
The first thing you notice when kids arrive at a #school is whether they are dreading, enduring or excited about the experience.

Well, here’s how these #Syrian #refugee preschoolers approach a typical school day in their @worldvision early childhood education #ECE centre.
Wonder what these kids were scampering towards? Seems they were jostling for position for a rousing #flashmob rendition — complete with full animation / full action choreography — of...wait for it...

🐻 🐻 The 🐻
🐻 Gummy 🐻
🐻 Bear 🐻 🐻
🐻 Song 🐻 🐻
🐻 🐻 🐻

😎 In French! 😎
When my wife (a specialist teacher w/ a MEd. in Educational Psychology) gathered what these #children are experiencing — kids who’ve only ever known displacement, fleeing bullets & bombs in #Syria, or life in a #refugee camp — she remarked
“They are getting their #childhood back”
Early Childhood Education Centre in Al Azraq #refugee camp I visited this week. 90kms from #Jordan-#Syria border, amidst the harsh winds of a middle eastern desert, it’s a challenging environment to live. Yet devoted @worldvision workers are making it a #special place for kids.
In this @WorldVision project for children in crisis — in a Syrian #refugee camp in #Jordan@SesameStreet’s #Elmo & #Raya & make a surprise appearance w/ @SesameWorkshop’s #WashUP hygiene initiative.
Dr. Mayada tells me kids love it! Promoting healthy handwashing saves lives.
💦 Having witnessed children on stretchers in #refugee #cholera treatment centres elsewhere — seeing their bodies clinging to life fighting acute watery #diarrhea — seeing these kids in #Jordan skip from playground to sinks for a handwash & clean drink of water IS EVERYTHING. 💦

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Apr 15, 2018
Unreal. Like so many, I’ve been in coffee shops — including Starbucks — waiting to meet people before I order. To use the facilities. Once in a while not allowed to use the restroom as a non-paying customer, but never arrested.
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1/168 “Daddy. Why do they do it?”
The question filtered thick and suffocating like the dust particulates
2/168 swirling in the basement air.
“Why do they bomb us? Did we do something wrong?”
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“Daddy. Why do they do it?”
The question filtered thick and suffocating like the dust particulates swirling in the basement air.
“Why do they bomb us? Did we do something wrong?”
Moussa clutched his little Eliana close to his chest. He stamped a protective kiss onto the 1/64
blonde, flattened curls at the crown of her head, the faint impression of his lips silhouetted by ash. Settling concrete dust was starting to encase their huddled figures in a tombstone shade of grey.
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His eyes searched the room as if the answer might have fallen somewhere amidst the rubble.
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Apr 1, 2018
“I don’t want to be nice. Not to HER, Grandpa!”
“Why not, Carson?”
“She’s mean.”
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“She laughed at me in class. Said I was stupid.”
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“She’s stupid! And she smells like...“
“..she smells like cabbage!”
“Cabbage, eh? Huh. But you shouldn’t call her stupid. You don’t want to be mean.”
“I don’t care. She hurt me.”
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“But I don’t want to be kind. It doesn’t feel good. I don’t like it!”
“Yeah, I feel that way too sometimes.”
“Why is it hard to be nice, Grandpa?”
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Here in Jordan today I met a man working in a small shop delighting customers with his craft.
“Canada,” I replied to his query of where I’m from. “You?”
“What city?”
“Oh wow.”
“You’ve heard of it?”
“Seen pictures. It was beautiful before the war” I replied.
After watching him work silently for a bit, I gently inquired “Did your family make it safely out of Syria?”
“Mostly.” He said softly. “My brother died.”
A pause. “So did my daughter.”
“Oh. I am so sorry.” I said. After a moment, “How old was she?”
“Six months.”
Six months? His little girl? Only six months old. Just a baby. Killed in the conflict. I wasn’t prepared for that. I suppose —far more deeply — neither was he.
“I’m so sorry.” I whispered.
“What was her name?”
“My daughter?”
His eyes lifted and looked beyond the window.
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