Volunteers in Syrian Displacement Camp Lead by Example

In displacement camps in northeast Syria, community leaders are central to ensuring everyone is cared for. From voicing their neighbors’ needs regarding service gaps to learning safety skills, these leaders are making a difference.

The Camp Coordination and Camp Management in Northeast Syria (CCCM) program team works with block and sector leaders, who are volunteers representing the different parts of the camp that they live in, on community matters. These connections help create a transparent, representative communication channel between the camp management team and the camp residents.

The CCCM program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and implemented by Blumont, supports the distribution of essential items; the maintenance and supply of services like water and fuel; and the wellbeing of camp residents through awareness sessions, community activities, and protection services.

a woman at a vegetable stand hands a bag to another woman

Hamdiya, left, is a volunteer leader in a displacement camp in northeast Syria who supports her community and also earns a living for her family as a vegetable vendor.

Block and sector leaders are liaisons who attend meetings with the team and deliver critical information to residents. They participate in CCCM awareness campaigns and encourage others to join activities. Our team also invites these leaders to trainings to build communication and management skills.

In one camp with tens of thousands of residents, there are more than 500 block or sector leaders. Some are nominated by the community to take on these roles, and others reach out to our team to engage.

Hamdiya, a mother of four and a vegetable seller, is a block leader in the camp. She attends CCCM awareness sessions to learn information to pass on to her neighbors while bringing their needs and concerns to share with Blumont’s team.

a woman standing demonstrates an activity using paper to a seated woman

Hamdiya, right, participated in an activity for women on skill building. Her daughters said they see her as a role model because of her leadership and her participation in skill-building activities.

Hamdiya’s role inspired her daughters to start taking vocational training courses. One of them said, “She is the one who understands us when we do not understand ourselves.”

Najah is another block leader at the camp. In addition to caring for her three children, she has taken on the responsibility of helping keep her community safe. Najah took a training course led by the CCCM team on how to use fire extinguishers. As fires can be common in the camps, Najah ensures that other camp residents know how to prevent fires and use extinguishers. Recently, she helped put out a fire, and as a result, no one was hurt.

a man uses a fire extinguisher outside in front of a group of people

Block leaders participated in demonstrations for their neighbors on how to use fire extinguishers. Safety is a priority of many of the block leaders who have collected feedback and concerns from the community.

“What we learned from Blumont contributed greatly to reducing the damage,” Najah said.

Similarly, Abu Jumaa works closely with CCCM’s community mobilization team. As a block leader, he played a major role in disseminating safety instructions this past winter. Abu Jumaa explained to his neighbors the precautions they need to take when using kerosene heaters inside their tents.

Ayman is another leader who takes on community responsibilities in the camp. Each day, he assists the CCCM team with distributing water, bread, and other supplies in his block.

a man plays a table top game

Ayman not only volunteers as a block leader, but also spends his free time designing games for children.

Aside from distributions, his leadership focus has been safety for children. As someone with a disability, Ayman knows firsthand how important it is to protect children from dangerous situations after experiencing his own life-changing accident. He shares critical information with families about how children can stay safe around vehicles, utilities, and other parts of the camp environment. In addition to his block leader duties, Ayman also creates games for the children and acts as a role model for them.

The volunteer leaders, including Ayman, Hamdiya, Najah, and Abu Jumaa, are making their community a better place and encouraging safe behavior while building valuable skills.