‘Without Hope You Cannot Live’: CARE’s Syrian Volunteers Help Fellow Refugees

‘Without Hope You Cannot Live’: CARE’s Syrian Volunteers Help Fellow Refugees

Publication info

Laura Sheahen

"Whenever we went to class there were bombs." Razan, a young Syrian woman, had always done well in school and prided herself on her good grades.   But as she took an important test, she couldn't concentrate. "Bombs were going off right nearby during the exam session. My stomach hurt from the stress."

"I didn't do as well as I hoped. I only got an 82%," she says. As Syria‘s civil war escalated, she tried to go to college anyway. "On the way to the university, a girl was shot right in front of me," she remembers. "I thought, ‘How can I register at a university when people are dying around me?'

"That's when I buried my dream."

At about the same time, a high school student named Ibrahim also quit school. "They started kidnapping people, especially boys," he says. "We are three brothers, and my father was very scared. He didn't let us go outside the house."

Nafla, a young woman in the Syrian city of Homs, wasn't studying either. She was teaching. "The regular teachers at a nearby school couldn't get there" because of the war, she says. "We lived closer and we volunteered to teach, so the students wouldn't forget."

But in the end, it was impossible for any of them to stay in Syria and stay alive. So they left. 

"All of us had dreams," says Nafla. "But when people leave their homeland, they lose their dreams."

The families of Razan, Nafla and Ibrahim fled to the neighboring country of Jordan, but couldn't leave the war behind. "It's like we're still in Syria because we're always watching the news," says Hind, a 26-year-old woman. "We go on Facebook, try to see how our friends are." 

"Whenever something happens in an area of Syria, the internet goes out," says Ibrahim. "Then when it's better, you hear the news from the people there."

It's hard to help people when you feel you need help yourself, but helping people is what makes us feel we're doing something.

- Nafla

Suffering themselves, all these young people decided to take on a difficult role: helping their fellow refugees as CARE volunteers. Five days a week, they greet refugees who come to CARE centers in four Jordanian cities. "Ninety percent of the cases are the same—either the parents were afraid they would lose their kids—or more of their kids if they've already lost one—or their house was destroyed," says Ibrahim.

The volunteers welcome refugees, introduce them to CARE's assistance programs, and find out what families need. "I was registering a man who lost his leg," remembers Nafla. "He had no crutches, so he was jumping. He just wanted a cane, a stick. His was broken."

CARE is helping over one hundred thousand Syrian refugees in Jordan alone. Its Syrian volunteers are an integral part of its efforts. "The people know that someone cares about them," says Razan. "Even giving a smile to a person helps them."

"It's hard to help people when you feel you need help yourself," says Nafla. "But helping people is what makes us feel we're doing something."

"We're all suffering, but some of the people we help are suffering more," says Razan.

The volunteers, like all the refugees, still grieve their losses. Family members have died, gone missing, or are in danger. 

Noor, who was a fourth-year engineering student in Homs, thinks often of her university friend. "I miss our talks," she says. "She was the only one who understood me without speaking."

"My sister is still in Syria. We shared everything. Laughter," says Razan. "I feel really alone here."

Nothing can replace what Syrian refugee families have lost, or the dreams that its young people have sacrificed. But despite everything, CARE's Syrian volunteers have found the strength to use their talents in the service of others. 

They've also made new friends.  "I feel as if this is a family," says Hind. "We don't like days off."

"Now that we volunteer for CARE, we feel more hope," says Nafla. "We need to empower each other, because without hope you cannot live."