An update from Za’atari Refugee Camp

Mohanned stands with his twin children outside the Smurf Centre.


What were you doing, ten years ago? In 2011, what was your life like? The news of that year was dominated by the riots in response to Mark Duggan’s death across the UK; the occupy Wall Street movement began; and across the Middle East, protests erupted in what was known as the ‘Arab Spring’.

In March 2011, protests began in Damascus – Syria’s capital. More than 10 years and 8 months on from the start of the conflict, Syria’s Civil War continues. Countless families have been forced to flee their homes, and 13.5 million people have been forcibly displaced – either within Syria or as refugees and asylum seekers in other countries across the globe.

Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan is currently home to more than 80,000 Syrian refugees – of whom over half are children. The camp opened 9 years ago, and in that time has transformed from a collection of small tents into a much larger, more permanent setting. All We Can has been working with Syrian refugees since the beginning of the crisis, and in the past few years has focussed support on initiatives taking place in Za’atari.

The charmingly named Smurf Centre is one of the projects that All We Can, supports in Za’atari through our humanitarian aid partner in the camp. The centre provides a safe and secure space for young children aged 3-5 to come and learn, play and receive psychosocial support. These young children are the first generation to be born within the camps – and are confronted daily with the trauma and loss that their parents and relatives have carried since fleeing Syria. The care provided at the Smurf Centre also means that parents and other caregivers can attend training sessions, or find work outside the camps while their children are being looked after.

Mohanned’s family is just one of many who are benefitting from the services provided at the Smurf Centre. He arrived at the camp 7 years ago, after a missile hit his home in Syria. His two young twins attend the centre a few times a week – giving him time to run his small shop, and giving his wife more time to spend with their other children.

Two builings decorated with images of Smurfs. A roofed courtyard protects a lawn from the sun.
The Smurf Centre provides a colourful and engaging place for children to play in Za’atari Refugee Camp. Image: Lutheran World Federation

‘The first reason why I brought [the twins] to the Smurf Centre is because I want them to learn. The second reason is that this is the only place available for my children to play near my place’ he explains. In fact, his young daughter often wakes her parents up to ask them to take her to the Smurf Centre, as it is one of her favourite places to be.

At Christmas, we can often find our thoughts turning to refugee communities, as we remember the Holy family and their flight to Egypt shortly after Jesus’ birth. This Christmas, we urge you to continue to hold families like Mohanned’s in your prayers, and to continue to call for the safety and security of refugees across the globe.

Show your loved ones you care this Christmas – order All We Can’s ‘Standing Together’ Extraordinary Gift, which could help support refugee communities.

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