There are 6.3 million displaced refugees in Syria, 1.3 million live in Jordan. Not all Syrian refugees within Jordan live in official refugee camps; nevertheless, living in Jordan and not in a camp means 20 to an apartment. These are urban refugees. Other refugees not in official camps have built their own camps near farming communities and work for one dollar a day harvesting fruit and vegetables.
Based out of Seattle, Washington, Salaam Cultural Museum is an all-volunteer organization that operates in Jordan as a registered NGO. With the exception of one paid office assistant no one draws a salary—not even those in the administration. For Ramadan, Rita Zawaideh, founder of Salaam, made a deal with one of the local Jordanian grocery stores; thirty one dollars purchased enough flour, sugar, tea, coffee, peanut butter, tuna fish and frozen chicken for a family of four for a month. Three thousand Syrian refugees were the recipient of the Ramadan food package.
During a recent conversation Zawaideh noted that “Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have never had hunger. It just has never happened. Grocers would always leave extra food outside if they were going to be closed. Now there is hunger and it is not ending.”
In addition to distributing food, Salaam organizes medical missions five to six times a year. These missions are staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, and humanitarians who at their own expense spend a week providing medical care to refugees in various camps via a mobile medical clinic. The medical team will typically see 500-700 urban refugees a day. Salaam also runs the Malki Children’s Center in Amman where children can receive therapy to help them to cope with the atrocities that they have witnessed and the conditions in which they are forced to exist.
At the end of July, Salaam sent a cargo shipment bound for Jordan that included infant kits and over one hundred wheelchairs and crutches. For just thirty dollars, Salaam was able to put together kits that will cover a newborn’s first year of life. Items such as clothes, rattles, blankets, clothing, and diapers are part of the kit. Cargo by boat takes two months to arrive; when it does, Zawaideh’s relatives in Jordan retrieve the cargo and sort it.
Other supplies such as medicine, and hygiene kits, are either transported in by suitcases when Salaam volunteers travel to Jordan. Recently, Zawaideh brought in over 2000 pounds of medicine in her suitcase. Zawaideh , says “that on occasion the airlines will waive a fee on the ninth or tenth bag.”
Salaam is also partnering with luminAid, a maker of inflatable solar lanterns. The mission is to deliver inflatable solar lanterns to remote refugee communities within Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria
Ramadan should not end just because Ramadan has ended. First World dilemmas pale in comparison to the nightmare that is unending for those in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. They do not have the “luxury of despair,” they are too busy just trying to survive.
To learn more about Salaam Cultural Museum visit salaamculturalmuseum.wordpress.com. To learn more about LuminAid visit luminaid.com.