Story from our colleagues at JRS Jordan
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
Amal* had just started her new job at a hospital in Baghdad, after finishing her studies at university in the medical technology department. She was dreaming to continue her post-doc studies as assistant to ophthalmologists. It was 2006. But then conflict and violence in Iraq escalated. Going to work was too dangerous, anyone could be at risk to be targeted by the sectarian violence. Her family decided the safest option for them was to flee to Jordan. They didn’t take anything with them, they had just 2 days to flee. They left home, clothes, and belongings. They didn’t know what would come next. “We were forced to leave our home, our roots, and our memories. It affected our soul and our whole life” Amal says.
After 16 years, we met Amal at a JRS Protection and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Center, in Amman. What they thought would be a temporary situation, became the new reality. Life in Jordan was not easy. At the beginning, Amal worked for a while in a ophthalmologist’s studio, however the situation wasn’t safe and stable there either.
“When I came here, I tried to find a job, I went to the Ministry of Health to take a certificate, but unfortunately, they refused to give it to me, because I am an asylum seeker, so I can’t work legally. But I tried my best to take training courses in my field, I worked in one of the eye centers here in Jordan, only as an assistant – because they are afraid to make me a regular employee, the ministry of health will give them a warning – it can’t be, it’s not legal” she says.
Refugees can’t get a work permit in Jordan, unless they give up their refugee status and find an employer able to cover the high costs for the issue of the work permit and residency papers. “But I didn’t give up. I was always taking courses, reading newspapers and magazines about my field”. Her family hoped to get resettled to another country, but that possibility hasn’t become reality yet.
Then, her father started to get sick. In 2015, he suffered from a brain stroke that left him paralyzed and prevented him from talking. Amal, the only daughter in the country, became the main caregiver for him – and, later, for her mother too. Her love for them, and the affection that keep her close to her parents, transpire in every word: “I was the youngest daughter. They gave me everything. They gave me hope,” Amal said. The health situation of her mother started to deteriorate quickly. “There was no one helping me. Those were horrible days” she recalls.
Just before the beginning of the lockdown, Amal heard about JRS, she found it online and a friend told her about the possibility of attending courses there. “I met first an angel girl of JRS. When I saw her, she told me: tell me your story, and my tears fell. She gave me a lot of support. She told me we have services here, we can go with the Home Visits team to visit your parents and see the situation, and see what we can do, and enroll you in our courses.” Amal enrolled in an online English learning program with Bard College, and after that she continued with English courses and the mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) case management course. The classes gave her something to focus on and to commit to. “During those hard days, I needed my special time for myself to feel like I am still alive,” she said. “Then, my journey with JRS continued. I took another English course, B2, but unfortunately during this time my mother got COVID, in March 2021,” she says, “ I spent the hardest month in my life caring for them, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go with them to the hospital because it was too expensive.”
In that difficult moment, because of complications to his situation, her father passed away. “I tried to be strong. But inside I am broken. I needed to be strong for my mother. I hid my tears.” she sadly tells.
“When my father died, I felt like I lost my energy, I couldn’t even eat, but I made myself strong for my mother. Later, I tried to make myself busy, when you feel busy all the time, you don’t have negative thoughts. The spare time is really the enemy for you. You must make yourself busy with good things,” she says. At that time, the courses at JRS were online. The English teacher encouraged her to continue, not to give up. “Day by day I got stuck with JRS” she says smiling. Thanks to the encouragement from a JRS psychologist, she started to be part of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) program, benefitting from psychological support and group counseling sessions with other women in similar situations. The JRS case-management team was informed about her situation, and through the system of referrals and accompaniment they managed to help her to get access to other services provided by other NGOs: she got support for the payment of the medicines for her mother, her procedure for resettlement reconsidered and determined to be of higher vulnerability.
Amal says, “I really feel here like my second home. It’s really a safe place to come and share everything you want.”
“Until this moment, I feel grateful for all JRS members. Grateful to the end of my life. You make us feel that everyone is a priority. We feel that in this place there is no discrimination between nationalities, between religions. Even in dealing with us, you don’t label the people according to their appearance, according to their nationality. That’s why I am stuck with this place, and I feel like if you call me for anything, I will come. I also met new friends through the courses,” she tells us.
Here is a message from Amal: “I want to say something to all the people that are struggling in life: don’t give up. It’s really not just a word. Be patient, be patient… when you are in the struggle, you know this word, you know you have to be patient. You have to keep on trying. I am a person that keep on trying, I didn’t give up. Sometimes I feel disappointed, but I told myself, you have to! Sometimes I feel completely lost… But I am proud of myself.”