Jordan - Al Za'atari Camp

Zaatari, situated in the north of Jordan and first opened in July 2012, is the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world. Although statistics are hard to ascertain, the population is believed to be somewhere approximating 80,000 persons. Its inhabitants constitute those forced to flee the conflict in Syria.

In 2020, UNHCR reported that more than half the population was under 18 years of age. One fifth were between 5 and 11 years old, and just over 19,000 children were registered in 32 schools. 58 community centres donned the responsibility for managing activities.

It is in this context where in September 2019, a delegation from Kalimat Foundation visited Zaatari, donating 20 libraries comprising 2,000 children’s books in response to the Pledge a Library programme. In parallel, through the camp’s community centres, a comprehensive schedule had been prepared for the arrival of the books. This included reading sessions led by foundation staff, workshops, and recreational and learning tasks for youngsters.

The occasion, marked as one of celebration, allowed further for a visit to one of the camp’s schools. Here, notably an uplifting performance by 10 budding ballerinas took place. Bursting onto the scene through a set of doors in white leotards, yellow tutus and with beaming smiles, they each reflected rays of bright sunshine. As they danced their plié and sauté to the sound of the music, with arms stretching out and in, a perfect moment in time prevailed. One in which all sense of hardship and place dissolved.

At the end of the performance, the ballerinas met the Kalimat Foundation team in a classroom, very excited with their outfits and star identities. When given books, they began debating passionately on characters they represented. One jumped out of her seat to ask, very confidently, for the support of one of the delegation. ‘Miss, don’t you think I look like her the most?’ pointing to a picture of a pretty young girl on the page. At that point, the book jumped out of her hands, into the air and onto the floor. The little ballerina could not help but laugh in excitement, causing everyone else to join her in a moment representing pure happiness in the simplest things.

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