Za’atari at 10: Looking Back with Hope for What is Ahead

The Za’atari Camp in Jordan opened on July 28, 2012, as conflict in Syria displaced millions. For ten years, Za’atari has offered security to thousands of refugees who fled their homes in search of safety and a new beginning.

Displacement has not caused life to stop for Za’atari’s 80,000 residents. The camp’s main road is alive with the sound of bicycles, conversations, and entrepreneurs managing their shops. People living at Za’atari have exhibited incredible resilience, using their talents and skills to adapt to new lives in hopes of a better future.

Our team has long been a part of Za’atari Camp. Through the UNHCR-funded Community-Based Protection program, we’ve provided support and services to help residents adjust, engage, learn, earn, and thrive at the camp and in the surrounding community. Our work has evolved to meet shifting needs and interests because—while the camp may be a temporary home for refugees—there are opportunities for people to make a lasting difference in their lives and in their community.

Safaa came to Za’atari soon after the camp opened. Though it has been 10 years, Safaa, now 27 years old, remembers life in Syria. Her favorite memories are of gathering with neighbors and relatives to cook and play in her family’s garden. Today, she helps ensure a healthy childhood for the young camp residents that attend a daycare center.

Safaa works with a child in a daycare center at Za’atari Camp.

“While working with Blumont as a daycare teacher, I play with the children, read to them, and try my best to help them be normal kids,” said Safaa. “Having a safe area to play is really important for their well-being.”

Ahmad arrived at Za’atari when he was 15 years old. He had to drop out of school to support his family, but returned as they settled into a new routine. He went on to finish high school and study for his information technology diploma.

Now 25, Ahmad is a coach at a Learning Hub in the camp where he works with residents to build their computer skills. The Learning Hubs are fully equipped with computers and internet access, providing a place for young people to complete their homework or explore their information technology interests.

Learning Hubs provide an opportunity for Za’atari residents to connect with the world.

As these courses help students prepare for the future, they also take time to remember life in Syria.

“Working here helps students learn and know more about the world,” Ahmad said. “Some of my students have never been outside the camp. We try to open a window for them to see and learn about new experiences.”

While Za’atari has offered safety for residents, many dream of that window beyond the camp. Some hope to return to Syria, others look to explore new parts of the globe. Whatever it may be, we remain committed to doing what we can to help people reach their goals.

“10 years have passed, but we still need all the support now more than ever,” Safaa said. “I hope to one day be able to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business. That is my dream, and I am sure it will one day a reality.”