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Syrian lives

A Syrian grandmother finds hope in Jordan

Married at 12 and divorced as a young woman, Raqia* was 45 when she fled her Syrian hometown, Dara'a, in 2011. Along with her adult son and his family, she crossed into Jordan and moved in with relatives there. Although she had finally found safety, Raqia struggled to cope with the trauma of war and the stress of refugee life. She lost all sense of purpose as she found herself relying on others to meet her basic needs. But with emergency cash relief paired with counseling, Raqia soon traded hopelessness for independence. She shared her story with me:

Life was normal [in Syria]. I would get up in the morning to pray, do some things around the house, wake up my son so he can go to work—he had a mobile phone shop in Dara’a. I also used to work in a little shop selling clothes.

After work, I would go buy groceries or whatever we needed for the house, and go visit relatives or friends. After that I would return home and wait for my son to get back, and have lunch and sit all together as a family. 

Our lives were very normal; there was joy and there was sadness. We were very happy though—it was enough that we were home in our country. 

50-year-old Raqia fled her Syrian hometown for Jordan

Raqia, 50, led a happy life with her family in Syria before war forced them to flee to Jordan. "I always say, 'Heaven on Earth was in Syria,'" she says. "Here, we’re all struggling to cover our basic needs."

Photo: Timea Fauszt/IRC

At the beginning [of the war], we refused to leave—but then after the bombing and the shooting escalated, we had to leave Syria.

My son is married and his wife was seven months pregnant when we left. It was a difficult journey. Now, thank God, we’re here in Jordan. We didn’t bring anything with us from Syria; even our memories were left behind. 

Here, life is very hard.  We suffered a lot because we didn’t get any help whatsoever at the beginning. We were able to survive on little things we would find thrown out on the street. 

We didn’t bring anything with us from Syria; even our memories were left behind.

In Syria, we never had to deal with this—everything was always available; we had a good life there. We made enough money and grew our own olives and other crops. I always say, “Heaven on Earth was in Syria.” Here, we’re all struggling to cover our basic needs.

Our time at the [Zaatari refugee] camp was very bad because we came during the winter and the tents had fallen on people. We left the camp and stayed with my sister and her husband in their apartment [in the city of Irbid] until we could manage to get an apartment for both my family and my brother’s family. 

Syrian woman with her toddler grandson in Jordan

When he was seven months old, Raqia's grandson Mohammed was rushed to the hospital with severe flu. Raqia was able to help pay for his care and medicines with cash assistance from the IRC.

Photo: Timea Fauszt/IRC

My daughter-in-law gave birth to two children here, and we went through difficult times with the second baby. My grandson was born prematurely and needed special care. Then, when he was seven months old, we all got the flu at once—we were all living in the same room at the time, sitting around one heater in the winter. He wasn’t strong enough to take it, so we took him to the emergency room and they put him in the intensive care unit.

My grandson’s hospital stay cost us 880 JODs ($1,240) for five nights and we had to pay it before we could take him home. We went to find help, but there wasn’t any. I called the International Rescue Committee and they helped me by giving us the remaining 360 JODs we needed to pay the hospital bill. They also gave us a new heater.

Our impact

To date, the IRC in Jordan has provided:

5,500

Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians with cash assistance to purchase basic necessitates.

Cash relief is one of the most efficient and effective forms of aid for thousands of uprooted people struggling to survive in times of crisis.

Explore our cash work.

I first heard about the IRC when I started to look for something that might help me with the stress in our lives. I met a woman who told me that at the IRC center [in Irbid], there’s psychological counseling and recreational classes such as sewing and beauty classes.

The ladies who work at the IRC center welcomed me in a very kind way. My counseling sessions with Dr. Suzan were great. She gave me the motivation to keep moving forward and advice on how to cope. Her smile was enough to uplift my spirits.  

I was surprised when after a month the IRC called me to come pick up an ATM card that I could use to withdraw 100 JODs ($140 US) monthly for six months. My happiness was indescribable; it was the first kind of aid I received in Jordan. I was so happy; I started crying.

I started going to discussion group sessions at the IRC center with Ms. Aysha Abu Ayyah, who taught us how to stretch our money and manage our household spending. I met a lot of other Syrian ladies there as well; we used to learn from each other and listen to each other’s stories. Everyone here needs aid; we’re all in the same situation. I continued to take these sessions even after the assistance ended.

I didn’t have to take money from my son or brother or anyone else anymore. I was able to depend on myself. 

 

The cash assistance came at the same time that we were going through a difficult time with my grandson in the hospital. We spent the money on transportation to the hospital and back, medicine, diapers; it helped a lot. It also helped with my own medical expenses since I have diabetes, hypertension and high triglycerides. 

Syrian children play in Jordan

Mohammed plays with his cousin in their small rented apartment in Irbid, Jordan. Their grandmother Raqia is using tips she learned from the IRC and other Syrian refugee women to stretch the family's limited financial resources.

Photo: Timea Fauszt/IRC

I used to chip in for rent, electricity and water bills as well. I would also pay for trips to get groceries or visit family. Cash assistance helped a lot with such expenses and it lightened the burden; I didn’t have to take money from my son or brother or anyone else anymore. I was able to depend on myself. 

This is the fourth year we’ve been out of Syria, and life here is still hard. One day I hope to return to my country, and for it to be a safe place. I hope that the future is one full of good, God willing.  

The IRC’s cash assistance program in Jordan is supported by aid from the UK government and other generous donors. 

*Last name omitted to protect privacy

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Refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe