The Zaatari Refugee Camp is in al-Mafraq, Jordan, is a dusty stretch far from California, or even the busy streets of Amman. During my first of eight visits, I was lucky enough to meet Anas, his wife Elham, and their large family.
Originally from the town of Deraa, they led ordinary pre-war lives back home in Syria. Anas worked in the technology field, earning a middle-class salary, and Elham was a stay-at-home mom.
In the great tradition of Syrian hospitality, they opened their home – now a wind-battered white UNHCR tent — to me. I visited with them for hours and became fast friends with their young girls, Lilian, Nadine, and Cewar.
On each subsequent visit, the girls asked about my own family and life, while opening up about their own. The kids loved having their pictures taken, so at each visit, I would bring my camera and host photo shoots in an attempt to keep their spirits up.
While the children remained cheerful, the suffering and anxiety felt by the parents was evident. Elham expressed fears about a long future to come at Zaatari.
As the harsh winter conditions at the camp take their toll, hundreds of tents are being swept away by floods and some children have frozen to death. The 73,000 Syrian refugees at the camp, including Elham and her family, are struggling to survive without food, water, and basic necessities.
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