Text by Valentina Primo.
Dina* is 22 years old. When she arrived to the Jordanian city of Mafraq, she had already relocated 25 times across different areas in Syria, trying to escape the conflict that has drowned the country for the past four years.
Her family had fled their hometown of Homs towards Damascus in 2011, but as the conflict spread to the capital city, they decided to move to Aleppo and relocate several times until, in 2014, they decided to seek refuge in Jordan.
Dina had been volunteering in Damascus, distributing food and clothes to victims of bombings, and later Aleppo, where she helped open a school; but as she arrived to Mafraq, she was puzzled to find herself at the other end of the “help chain”.
“As soon as we got here, some people came to help us. And I started crying and laughing at the same time, I was shocked. When they asked me why I was crying, I told them that it’s because I am the one supposed to help. I am not just a victim, I also want to help people and change the world,” she tells BarakaBits. Dina did not speak English, nor did she have a university degree. She had registered at university in Damascus, but as the war began, she was forced to leave. Her grit, however, turned out to be more powerful than any certificate, and the man receiving her at the registry office promised to help.
In three months, Dina mastered English and climbed her way up working at a local charity, until she was hired by an international aid organization that helps refugees. “I used to write every new word I heard on my notebook, and I managed to learn quickly,” she says.
According to UNHCR, Mafraq is home to over 70,000 Syrian refugees, although unofficial statistics indicate that the real figure doubles the local population of 85,000. As Jordan is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention on Refugees, most of them reside in the country as asylum seekers until they are resettled in other countries, and are therefore not allowed to work. With a volunteer contract and her monthly income, Dina manages to support her family every month. “Refugees here can only work in organizations, small projects, or at the kitchen,” she explains.
Dina still remembers how she and her brothers had to hide inside the closet, as they heard the building behind their home collapse. “Sometimes I feel I am 100 years old. But I feel happy because I am lucky to have a job,” she says, as she surprises us with her scheduled activities on Saturdays, when she volunteers to collect items to be sent to Syria.
*In order to preserve the identity of the interviewee, her name has been changed.