Buried Treasure

Dropping out of middle school to earn a meager handful of much-needed dollars for his family captured Hamzi in a very bad story.

A bad life-story that will cut his future down to a small size of struggle and second-rate opportunities. But it is also a story of buried treasure.

Hamzi was a good student. Math was his favorite subject – his passion. He had to put this passion on ice, maybe forever, when he dropped out to go to work in construction as a 16-year-old.

And it was hard to see his buddies going on to high school. He was left...MORE

Willow Creek in Za'atari: Part 3

As a pleasantly warm room full of smiling Zumba-ers took a break, the instructor asked us how we felt. 

Two feelings instantly came to mind and I shouted them out: Alive and Together.

We don't share a language, but the common appearance of flushed cheeks and big grins told me that we all felt the same. Our mutual feminine humanity, despite the mixture of culture or faith, effervesced via fast heart beats and a Latin dance beat.

Looking back, it occurs to me that Alive and Together best reflect my entire day at Questscope in...MORE

Willow Creek in Za'atari: Part 2

After spending a day with Questscope staff and volunteers, my entire perception of refugees has shifted. I left in awe of the joy, love and consideration I experienced and observed.

I think Western news often asks us to believe that refugees are under-resourced, under-skilled people who are living in hopeless and dark situations. It was beautiful to see the opposite at Questscope. The people I met were passionate teachers, talented artists, and hopeful souls that welcomed me with open arms. 

I remember my...MORE

The Big Girl Who Can't Read

Rahaf fled Aleppo with her family when missiles started crashing into their neighborhood.

They now share space with others in a communal shelter near Aleppo. Crowded, chaotic, crammed together.

She attends a temporary school there. Due to a learning disability, she is older than the grade level she is in. For other students, she is “the big girl who can’t read.”  It was very hard for 14-year old Rahaf when others made fun of her.  

Making friends was very hard, too. Teen girls, especially in the...MORE

Willow Creek in Za'atari: Part 1

We were five days in to a nine-day trip when we pulled up to the guard post at Za’atari camp in northern Jordan. We’d seen the news stories and heard the statistics: There are 79,000 people living as refugees in temporary housing while they wait for the war to end in Syria or for UN refugee resettlement and placement.

In a place where I was expecting to find hopelessness and defeat, there is indeed unimaginable pain.

But it was at Za’atari, where I learned about how people living as refugees are also living as real-life heroes, as they create the world of...MORE