This 3 page timeline lays out CARE Uganda's path to building innovative refugee housing where 90% of refugees feel safer, at 78% of the...
Dream Child Refugee
Dream Child Refugee
As CARE’s community development officer at Al-Azraq camp for Syrian refugees, this is my first experience working at such a camp. I have been shocked to witness the amount of pain and suffering the refugees live through. I walk by their shelters every morning, and I know that a story lives in each shelter, a story filled with sadness, pain and despair. There are some who lost their father, mother and child, and there are some who brought along nothing but their family – not even their clothes. They came in search of peace, security and renewed hope in life. I have lived through countless stories at the camp through my daily interactions with refugees, and the one I am about to recount is perhaps the one that touched my heart the most. Despite all the pain and suffering this story entails, I believe it also sends a message of persistence, determination and creativity.
Mohammed, a Syrian refugee, is barely 14 years old. After the situation became dire in his hometown, his parents decided to leave and travel on foot in search of a safe heaven, so they headed to Jordan, seeking a lifeline. While they were on their journey, Mohammed’s grandfather was struck and killed by a shell dropped from a drone. The family was unable to bury him, so they continued walking, trying to persevere with their lives.
After a grueling journey, Mohammed’s family finally reached the Al-Azraq camp, where I welcomed them. The fear and hardship of the journey could be seen in their eyes; they were not used to these conditions that they were forced into. When I sat and talked with Mohammed, he mentioned that he loved his grandmother more than anyone else in this world. She was suffering from high blood pressure, which made the conditions of the camp almost unbearable, with the scorching heat of the desert summer and the lack of electricity. Mohammed felt deep empathy for his grandmother and wondered what he could do to alleviate her suffering, and so begins the story of his innovation...
Mohammed decided to create a fan to protect his grandmother from the extreme heat and ease her pain, so he headed toward the garbage disposal area of the camp and gathered some of the scrap materials he found there to make simple tools that could help save the person dearest to him. He spent days planning, innovating and creating this device, which he built as a labor of love, hope and passion, withstanding all the challenges and harsh circumstances that surrounded him and his family, until the fan was completed and ready to use. Now, he only needed to find a source of power to operate it, since the camp had no electricity. He started searching for the ideal battery in hopes of saving his grandmother and exhilarating her broken heart, as she continued to mourn her husband’s painful death.
Finally, Mohammed found a toy that had been tossed away that contained a battery. He tested the battery on the fan and, to his delight, it worked perfectly! His little heart could barely contain his joy and sense of achievement. Thanks to his perseverance and determination, he was able to make his dream a reality, and the fan worked perfectly well.
I am so glad to have stumbled upon this story of a talented, determined young boy who was able to achieve his dreams despite the limited resources available within his harsh surroundings. He
was able to make use of something as simple and unnoticeable as garbage to bring joy to his grandmother’s life and vastly improve her living conditions.
Mohammed also extended his talent to help out the rest of his family. His father was suffering from a severe back pain and had asked other family members to take over the water collection chore, as he was no longer able to carry heavy water containers. The family’s tent was far from the water collection point and the camp’s supermarket, so Mohammed used his problem-solving abilities to come up with an alternative method of transporting water. He gathered scrap metal from around the camp and assembled it into a small trolley that enabled the family to carry larger quantities of water and transport it with much less physical exertion.
Through his innovation, Mohammed was able to help out his entire family. With a little support and funding, his innovations could be extended to others who are trying to survive in the refugee camps.
Although Mohammed is much younger than me, I have learned a lot from him. He showed me that our creativity and innovation continues regardless of the rough circumstances that surround us. On the contrary, these circumstances can enhance innovation, as necessity is the mother of invention.
Mohammed showed me how we could create something from (almost) nothing, and that life goes on even after the proliferation of corruption, injustice and death. We can always find a way to create peace and life in our own environment.