A visit to the refugee school


Last week, was my first day to visit the refugee school inside Syria; it happens that it was also the first day in the SOS non-governmental organization, it left on me a lifelong lasting experience on my mind and soul, which is why it is definitely worth mentioning on paper, in this trip I learned, that most important and precious aspect of human existence is its dignity, and humans in all cultures will pay every possible price in order to save and protect that dignity, this is in general, in every case there is exceptions also to be mentioned, What I mean with the word “dignity” is constant human pursuit to save face and appear like everyone else around them in spite of life uncompromising difficulties, we see this self-evident in the case of the refugees who are staying temporarily in the Syrian schools, from the first glance we see them living a life like any ordinary life that we the non-refugees live, but after close examination we see completely different picture from the one we see from far way, the first thing that we notice is the daily stress that the refugees feel because of the rapid change in their environment, like a plant that if we took it from one botanic garden to the next, in most of the time it will die from the change in the environment that inflicted on it, this is in case of plants, in case of humans, it takes a shape of unhappiness and lack of laughter and smile, which are very essential for every human being. Another example that can be used to explain this feeling to the observing mind, is the metaphor of the naked person walking in the public streets, as we know the person is striped from his cloths and suffers from public scrutiny not just because he lacks cloths to cover his body, but because he in this norm and behavior is bringing disgrace to the laws and values of society at large.  So we conclude that being a refugee is an experience very humiliating to the human soul, no matter what people tell you otherwise, you can easily notice the pain and suffering from their tone of voice and knowing all that, you should deal with them according to that order. In spite of all the daily difficulties that people in the refugee schools encounter, you can see from time to time, some kind of order and tidiness here and there, if this shows a thing, it shows that there are always people who are fighting the adversary back and are creating that human action friction with it, like Clausewitz explains in his book “On War”, making the destructive storm postpone in motion, and opening a place to rationality and human sound calculation to appear. We see this in the constant struggle of the Syrian families against poor conditions, in order to recover what was taken from them by the brute force of war and circumstances we also see them from time to time working as a one group to fight the bigger issues that face the whole school building like the sanitary broken system or the spread of infectious disease with acts of separating the people affected and calling for assistance of the Ngo’s and government.

The school that we went was a governmental school, now is empty of students accept of 2-3 classes still functioning, the main mission of the organization that I’m volunteered in, is to provide children and families of the needy, with basic needs in times of hardship and in times of peace, in addition to this its established to provide orphan children with families in order to achieve smooth integration of orphan children back to society. This mission attracted me to volunteer in this Organization, in addition to this there was an inner motivation concerning to my sheer interest in adventurous and exciting events which push me always to this kind of humanistic situations and events, and also comes from my personal conviction that every human being at some point of his or her life, should do something to humanity no matter how small or great, and with the result of such a altruistic behavior all of humanity would suffer less and would gain more happiness on the long run. So, in a bottom line, my personal fight is with injustice inflicted on the free mind and soul of (real) human beings, who has a soul so close to in nature with the eagle than the chicken which also have wings, it will never try to fly with them let alone its wings are artificial symbol of their will to fly, and to be more specific, my personal fight is with those who has immense amount of power and greed and has a tendency to destroy other people sometimes societies and whole countries for the sake of their own personal gain and wellbeing, I’m not here to argue that self-interest is a sin, I’m arguing that the excess of it is a mere human tragedy for the person who is possessed by this tendency and all the humans who live close to him  and her, and unfortunately to amount of those people in the 21st century has increased exponentially mainly because of the upper hand of the capitalist system and the consumerist lifestyle. So, it became a normal human scene to see a person riding a very expensive car like Cadillac, which is a symbol of luxury and extravaganza, driving across miles and miles of shanty towns and poor populations without even bothering to look outside of that black window of his car, societies in this sense are becoming more and more suffering from inner separation with the use of glass windows and luxury café’s and private compounds and all the rest of the cosmetic surgeries that the modern life are doing to itself to hide its own vises and abnormalities. My personal guess is my Armenian background also play a part in this, since the pictures of genocide and mass murderer is still fresh in the memory of every living Armenian on earth.

My daily work in the school was visiting each refugee family and taking notes on their financial, emotional, and psychological condition, with the survey filling method, this type of survey covers most of their basic life aspects to make the senior management know and understand the amount of financial attention should be given to each particular family, I also took some documentary photos, some of them are really professional in quality, I also started to take photography more seriously after this experience, and realized the power of the picture especially in the age of Facebook and social media, where the written word is not much of in fashion as the picture. In the course of the visit, I went to too many houses and simply repeated what I talked earlier, the same picture repeated in every room of the school, small classrooms transformed to apartments stuffed with 5-6 people in each room, without electricity, water, or simple cloths to put on, some of the children even didn’t have shoes in their foot, I also saw plenty of children suffering from serious health issues which needs immediate attention, I clearly remember the Mongolian child which her entire special care hospital was abolished by war, so she had no other choice but to live with her family in the refugee school, I saw her wandering in the corridors of the school twice, I even had the chance to take some photos of her while she was sitting on the floor at her home. Also another human tragic case was the case of an old women which she couldn’t take care of herself and she didn’t have someone to help her either, so we see after all this analysis that mostly the most vulnerable people in society are the ones who lack the social and emotional bonds and safety nets, in which these weak existing safety nets fall in the slightest social disruption opening the doors to huge human and financial costs which can’t be reconstructed as easly as some utopian revolutionist  may presume it can.

these were the most severe cases I encountered, and they need the most immediate attention, since everyone else can push their self through the day accept those people.

Small Oligarchy in a miserable world:

As some of you realized there is a vital entity which is lacking in all this, its governance and government support and parent ship, I also asked the same question, where the heck is the government? Simply put, it’s absent, so who governs those needy people? In the midst of the chaos, the “strong” refugee families take the lead in commanding and distributing the goods, apartments and humanitarian aid, leaving the lions share to them and leaving the small bits to the more unable families, mainly the weak families lack the strong social ties and relations to push them ahead in their daily survival and small portion of them already lost some members of their families making them completely in the hand of ill fate.


In the end of this essay, I conclude that (Ngo) associations are so vital to the development agenda of any society, because it creates safety nets to the vulnerable groups of the society, I also encourage people to donate some of their time and resources to other people if they are strangers even better, who knows when and where you and I, can become in times of need and search around us and won’t find people who helps us. I also suggest that Ngo associations not only should limit their duties to funding the poor and the needy, but widen it to building the devastated states and economies with providing them with the tools of self-sustainability, in case of Syria, Syria needs not only reconstruction in the upcoming years, but also economic   re-construction which in case nobody funded it, Syria easily can become a safe- haven to extremism and terrorism, as some parts of it are already now, it will become not only an importer of terrorism which it is today, but rather to a strong exporter to this rotten apple to the world, to nearby nations like turkey Jordan in the short term, and Europe and the United States, on the long run, I hope in the upcoming years the global community will be more aware of this danger, and take the necessary steps to curb these issues on the ground before they transform from local to regional and then global one.


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