Going from being a responsible family father, home owner and business operator to being a refugee in a different country without your own possibility to support yourself is frustrating, says Abd El-Ellah Harba from Syria. But with a cash card, the family has received the opportunity to decide themselves how to allocate their money.
Nothing is the way it was before for the Harba family; everything has changed. In recent years, life has changed radically for Abd El-Ellah Harba and his family, wife Um Mohammad and their four children.
At home in Homs, they had a large house and garden with a fountain. Abd El-Ellah Harba ran his own shoe store and the two oldest children went to school while his wife was at home with the two youngest twins.
When the war in Syria with weapons fire and bombs made it impossible to remain at home, and the children were afraid and had nightmares, the family decided to flee – first within the country, but gradually as the violence spread, all that remained was to flee to the neighbouring country of Jordan.
Fleeing with small children
They paid dearly for the transportation and were dropped off 80 kilometres from the border with the children and the luggage in which their entire lives had been packed. The heat and the fact that they were forced to carry the then two-year-old twins and at the same time support the slightly older children meant that they were forced to leave the luggage along the way – one suitcase after another. When they finally arrived, they had virtually nothing left.
“We lives in the refugee camp Azraq for two weeks, but felt that we didn’t want to live there, but rather in a larger city as we were used to and therefore continued to Amman where some of our relatives already lived,” says Abd El-Ellah Harba.
The family has not established itself in Amman. They live in a small cellar apartment that they rent from the owner who lives in the same house.
“As soon as we came here, the children were able to relax. Here, my children are safe, they can be outside and they can sleep through the night,” says Abd El-Ellah Harba.
In Jordan, a limited number of Syrian refugees is permitted to work even if it is difficult to obtain a work permit. But Ahmed who was struck by illness can no longer work and support the family.
Cash assistance and food coupons for refugee families
Instead, the family now receives aid from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) with food coupons while the children’s schools are paid for by UNICEF. In spring and autumn, they receive an extra support to be able to buy seasonal clothing for the children. They also receive a cash assistance that is deposited on a cash card every month that Abd El-Ellah Harba and his wife can use.
“It’s good to get the cash assistance so that we can decide on our own what we will buy. We have chosen to spend some money on bus cards for our son Mohammad since the school is so far away,” says Abd El-Ellah Harba.
12-Year-old Mohammad and 10-year-old Qamar attend the Jordanian school that provides special education for Syrian refugee children who missed some of their schooling. The girls are taught in the morning and the boys in the afternoon.
The children like to be able to go to school again, and it is good that they get to meet other children in the same situation. It also benefits their possibilities of working through the experiences from the war to thereby be able to return to daily life once the war is over. Then it is also important that the children have an education and opportunities to get a job.
Mohammad dreams of becoming an architect.
Mohammad attends a school in a different part of the city. The way to school is long and dangerous, so his parents have bought a bus card for him. The alternative, to not go to school, is unimaginable for Mohammad who gets good grades and hopes to become an architect.
“I really want to be able to go to school, it’s a lot of fun and important to get an education,” says Mohammad.
When food and the bus card are paid for, there is no money left over, even though they are frugal.
“We never have anything left over for ourselves, rather it goes to the absolute essentials, but we manage,” says Abd El-Ellah Harba.