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At the All We Can office in London we talk a lot about potential. The P-word matters to us – people potential, community potential, the potential of the Church and the potential of a movement of people committed to change in the world. I also find when I am out and engaging in churches around the UK the P-word is frequently mentioned. As Christians, I think we are often prompted to reflect on our God-given potential and the promise of the Church in action. Perhaps most powerfully, we are compelled to see potential in others in situations of deprivation, despair and hopelessness. When potential is squandered or obstructed by poverty, injustice or inequality, we become acutely aware of the waste.
I recently travelled to Jordan with All We Can to meet families seeking refuge. I spent two days in Husn Refugee Camp in the north of the country getting to know some of the children who had fled the brutal conflict in Syria. Sat on the freshly swept concrete floors of temporary homes, decorated with bright mattresses and pot plants, I was given the privilege of sitting beside young people who had seen more horrors in the few short years of their lives than I would ever be likely to witness. Stories of bombings, fear and endless days of walking across dusty desert paths punctuated our conversations. And the P-word was there too. Lost in the middle of the conversations hung the acknowledgement that the war in Syria had not just created bitter memories, it had affected once bright futures as well. Children who had been top of their class in Syria had gone for years without a proper education, teenagers who had once dreamed of becoming doctors, lawyers and academics now diluted those dreams, yearning instead simply for peace.
When we watch news scenes of bloodshed and destruction in Syria, and as images of dust-covered children sat in the back of ambulances stunned and glassy-eyed remind us of the awfulness of war we can sometimes wonder whether there is any way we can make a difference. We speak of potential and yet in such dire circumstances surely all hope feels lost. Yet, in the middle of a children’s group in Husn Camp, a petite girl dressed in electric pink stood up and read a speech filled with passion and hope and yearning for a better future. Hiba’s voice shook as she spoke of home, “the war burned everything” she said. But as she talked her voice swelled with courage and she started to express the encouragement she had found through this children’s group, known as the Child Forum. She spoke of her talent for poetry being nurtured and she smiled timidly. For girls like Hiba the forum, run by one All We Can’s partners in Jordan, had been a source of strength and psychological support. A hub for learning, discussion, friendship, and perhaps most importantly fun. Hiba had lost so much in Syria, through her words I discovered she had been bereaved of her father and her home, but resiliently she also spoke of what she had gained.
The Child Forum in Husn Camp is held in an unremarkable building but in that simple setting a hive of potential is being nurtured. Both Palestinian and Syrian refugee children gathered together creating art, playing games and voicing their dreams. Children who had to grow up too quickly were being given the chance to be children once again. The P-word was mentioned over and over again by the adult volunteers, naming individual young people and their gifts, talents and skills. I did not need to question whether we could make a difference, the difference was being made there in front of my eyes. Later, when meeting the mothers of some of the children, it became obvious that while the education and health support offered was vital that it was the simple yet powerful acts of love and friendship that had made all the difference. Being recognised as an individual, a unique person, gave the children the acknowledgement that they needed. They are not just ‘refugees’ but they are Hiba, Mohammad and Yousef. They have names, they matter, they have potential.
And in spite of how broken the world can seem we have potential too. We have the potential to make a difference in a world that badly needs change-makers. We have the potential to come alongside the stranger in our midst, to remember the widow in a foreign land in our prayers and to give all we can to support young people like Hiba. The P-word matters because we all have potential and the P-word matters because when we come together and do all we can we see that potential flourish in even the most challenging circumstances.
This Christmas you can help more children like Hiba by buying an Extraordinary Gift. Find out more at www.awcdev.us/gifts
Laura works for All We Can as the Communications Manager. She is also an internationally acclaimed photographer with a passion for women's rights. She is studying MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies in her spare time and lives with her husband Stephen in Essex.