We, in IKEA, are constantly thinking about the dreams, needs and frustrations of the many people at home. Dreams. Needs. Frustrations. Three simple things. But for this you first need to have a place you can call home.
Most of the refugees in Jordan are Syrians who, out of the blue, had to leave their beautiful homes, loved ones and comfortable lives in order to look for a place to live in peace. But it is not that easy to find a new place to call home.
Generally, home is the most important place, where your family is and where you feel safe and loved. And for refugees the cities and tents in the camps are their homes.
We visited the Azraq refugee camp, where 40,000 people have found hope and shelter, thanks to UNHCR co-ordination, and many partners that helped them build it. One of those being the IKEA Foundation!
In this camp, 60% of the refugees are children aged below 18 (25% of these below five). Can you imagine a five-year-old child without toys, TV or even the basic conditions to do homework?
Refugees dream about having their own home, without economic problems (in cities) or with some customisation (in the camp). We can see painted facades, gardens, living rooms with a TV, kitchens with washing machines, air conditioning systems etc.
Life in a refugee home or tent is like any other family home everywhere in the world. Independent of a person’s social status, religion or nationality, the home is where the family stay together, share time, do cooking and where children play and do homework after being at school…but very far away for their own homes and living in a non-ideal environment.
Refugees’ homes reflect their culture, with carpets and cushions to be seated on the floor while talking, drinking coffee or watching TV. They told us that they don’t have more personal things from their own homes. They escaped with only basic things from Syria.
We could see how one family live when we spent some time at their home. A generous married couple who escaped from the war with two children and grandparents. They welcomed us into their home with recent light and bright and shiny eyes, and shared with us the story of their life. The father was working as a farmer back in Syria, the mother was a housewife. Now he is ill and it is the mother who is working in the camp, as an advisor to children.
They have four children of their own. The first child was a girl, called “dreams”, born in Syria. The third child was born in the border; they called him “immortal”. They invited us to have coffee and the children showed us all the books they were using at school. One wanted to be a policewoman; it was the first profession she looked up to when she arrived in Jordan. One wanted to be a fireman; he wanted to be able to save lives. The other two didn’t have those kind of dreams yet.
The parents’ hopes are the same. They pray for their children, to not have to go through this again, to be able to study and have a better life.
We also had the opportunity to visit a couple of families in Amman (the capital of Jordan) and Irbid (only 30km away from the border).
In Amman, a 40-year-old woman called Eman received us at her home. She was a widow with four kids; two pairs of twins. She didn’t have access to work as she had to take care of the children. She had cash assistance, as she was one of the most prioritised cases. Her hopes? Peace…but, as she said, “Peace is only a period between two wars”.
In Irbid, we visited a young couple who had three children and were expecting twins. They invited us to their sitting room and told us about their lives and hopes to go back to Syria as soon as the war lets them. They were benefiting from a solar panel, installed at their landlord’s home, which made their rent much cheaper.
All in all, the three families had something in common—the opportunity to find a new home. Their experiences of an ugly past and an uncertain future are now in our hearts and minds, and we will remember this during our everyday life, trying to do our best to create a better life for refugees from wherever we are.
Thanks to the IKEA Foundation and their partners, these huge numbers of refugees can have a better everyday life…and many things still remain to be done. But, together, all the co-workers and clients can make a positive impact.