Wisal explains the importance of the kitchens to the community. “We use the kitchens to cook everything. About 30 families use each kitchen every day.”
“My parents’ house was bombed yesterday and their home destroyed,” says Wisal, 35, a Syrian refugee who has been living in King Abdullah Park Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Irbid, Jordan, for nearly three years. Wisal and her family of eight are part of a close-knit community of 700 refugees who live in the camp.
Wisal is preparing lunch for her family in one of the four communal kitchens that we manage in the camp. The kitchens are spacious, with several gas cookers and wide counters to accommodate multiple families at a time. In King Abdullah Park Camp, we oversee the kitchen maintenance and gas distribution. As Wisal prepares her traditional spinach soup, she explains the importance of the kitchens to the community. “We use the kitchens to cook everything. About 30 families use each kitchen every day.”
Our community mobilizers ensure that the communal kitchens reflect the community spirit of King Abdullah Park refugee camp. Each kitchen has a volunteer community kitchen supervisor who maintains the kitchen cleaning schedule (refugees rotate cleaning responsibilities).
The kitchens bustle at lunch hour. One mother prepares lentil soup adjacent to a small assembly line of family members preparing tubs of makdous, oil-cured eggplant to store for the winter season.
Wisal says that adapting to life as a refugee has been challenging but that cooking for her family provides her with a sense of normalcy. Placing her hand gently on her heart, she says, “Thank you for your help and support.”
We also maintain the 12 communal kitchens in Cyber City Camp, just a short drive away. Cyber City’s 400 predominantly Palestinian refugees of Syrian origin reside in single rooms in a six-story building and share communal bathrooms and kitchens.
Ansaf, 43, fled Syria three years ago. “I left Syria because I was afraid for my four boys and six grandchildren,” she says. Ansaf lives with her family on the first floor of the building, just a few doors down from one of the communal kitchens. The kitchens are fully equipped with refrigerators, stoves, ovens, and running water, offering a comfortable and clean environment for refugees to prepare their meals.
Ansaf says she sees the community mobilizers on a daily basis. “They always come and change the gas and fix things.”
Often overshadowed by the larger refugee camps in the Jordan, Cyber City and King Abdullah Park help ensure that all individuals affected by the Syrian conflict receive the help they need. By providing and maintaining quality kitchens, we help refugees regain independence and a sense of normalcy.
The Outreach Services for Syrian & Iraqi Refugees project is funded by UNHCR and managed by IRD.