Day 2: Za’atari Refugee Camp

Anoymous womanTorrey Taussig

Zarqa, Jordan

January 10, 2013


Strength, Kindness and Patience in Humanity  

Outside of Al Mufraq, about 12 KM (8 miles) from the Syrian border, lies Za’atari Refugee Camp. Approaching the camp is somewhat like approaching the end of the earth, and flat, desolate land stretches out in all directions. There is very little vegetation or life in the area, and with today’s rain, wind and cold temperatures, the setting was even bleaker.

On a numbers basis, the Za’atari refugee camp is nothing short of a miracle, especially when one considers the sheer number of people flooding into the once barren dessert site. The camp currently has around 60,000 people living there, and is receiving between 1,000 to 1,400 people a night. Nearly 1,800 people crossed the border and entered into the camp on a single night this past week. The numbers are unfathomable, and difficult for the mind to grasp, and even more so when one takes into consideration the amount of food, shelter and health services being provided to all of the refugees on a daily basis.

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Save the Children has about 120 staff there (it was the first organization to respond at Za’atari) and is working with other organizations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP and others to provide the best care that they can, although the conditions get more and more difficult by the day. Everyone who comes to the camp is now staying for the foreseeable future. Before, around 150 people used to leave a day- some going back to Syria, others being taken in by Jordanian host communities or families. Now very few, if any, return to Syria.

Driving down the long straightaway to the front of the camp, you can only see flat land sectioned off by barbed wire fence, giving a sense of going into a closed off zone. At the entrance to the camp, the security presence is heavy.

Upon entering, we could see the entrepreneurial spirit of the people right away. Some tents around the entrance are being used as shops and small markets, sporadically set up by the Syrians as a way of obtaining different commodities and earning a small amount of money.

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We first went to the food distribution areas, where there are huge tents set up for daily bread distribution and bi-weekly distribution of food kits. Depending on the number of members in a family, each family is given a number and told when it is their turn to pick up their food boxes, which include salt, oil, lentils, rice and bulgur wheat, enough to last for about two weeks.

The distribution tents are divided in two, one half for the men and the other for the women. The woman side tended to be more orderly and quiet, slightly less raucous than the male distribution side. Regardless, everybody waited patiently for their food kits to be distributed to them, and smiled as we walked by. The food distribution sites are kept orderly by gates and single points of entrances and exits.

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Next we went to the school, which was constructed with great efficiency and care by the Bahrain government. The school is a more permanent structure than the dense population of tents growing outside of its walls, and each room has a space heater; a rare commodity that is unseen among the tents where the Syrians are living.

There, we met with Save the Children staff and a psychologist, who is working with some of the children, mostly on issues pertaining to violence that they have seen. The school is composed of children ages six to eighteen.  It can hold around 2,000 children at a time and the classes are taught by Jordanian teachers and Syrian teaching assistants who are refugees in the camps themselves. They teach the Jordanian curriculum, and we learned that the children had their end of semester exams approaching! Despite the added stress that may come along with the exams, the structure provides activity, continuity and a small amount of normalcy for the children whose lives have been uprooted since they left their homes many months, and sometimes over a year ago.

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Inside the classrooms, there are wooden desks and chalkboards. There are many pictures and writings on all of the desks, including pictures of the Syrian flags, and hearts. On others, the students have written poetry, writings of peace and in once instance, a short paragraph saying: Do not be afraid to write, my pen. Life is a memory. Freedom and pain are forever.

Writing, and art, can be a form of healing and expression at a time when there are no other ways to voice their fears, hopes and dreams for the future.

Save the Children recently put together a small book of children’s pictures, where the Syrian children sketched their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the coming year. Many drew pictures of flowers, Syrian flags, clothing and included inscriptions such as, I wish…

To go back to Syria

To go home

A doll and toys

Warm clothing

To see my brother back in Syria

To be back in my room

To be happy, joyful,

That my life will be full of roses

These are simple dreams, simple aspirations that many of us would take for granted. For all of the children in the Za’atari refugee camp, their homes are now tents in a cold and wintry desert. Unlikely to happen upon a rose anytime soon, they will, like all children, just continue to dream.

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We next went to Save the Children’s kindergarten area where a teacher-training session was taking place. Despite the grey skies and barren tents, the muddy paths and the large puddles of water developing on the main roads, the atmosphere was immediately filled with color, light and joy as soon as pulled open the entrance to the early childhood center tents. The space is covered with a bright red carpet depicting cartoon characters, and the every corner of the tent is filled with toys and red, yellow and blue chairs. At a small table on the side of the room, a teacher training was going on with both Jordanian and Syrian “animators” (a term used by Save the Children to describe the volunteers working with children in the early childhood centers.) The young women, many of whom are refugees themselves, greeted us with smiles, waving and singing, and seemed particularly joyful that morning. We all participated in a training activity using brightly colored balloons, meant to be an icebreaker game for the children.

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Save the Children is also caring for unaccompanied minors, children who came without families and are alone for a number of reasons. Some include that their mothers did not want to leave their homes in Syria, that they stayed behind to take care of a newborn or very young child, or because their mothers did not want their sons recruited and sent them to the borders for their own safety.

Before leaving, we visited the spaces where the unaccompanied minors are staying who have not yet been assigned to a tent. We spoke to one fourteen-year old boy, who was waiting in the trailer lined with cots, blankets, and a few other boys around his age. His hand was swollen from an injury that he incurred from mortar shelling, and he came to the camps for treatment and physical therapy. He told Save the Children that when he is better, he will return to Syria where the rest of his family has stayed behind. For him, there does not seem to be a doubt in his mind that he will return as soon as he is better.

We then left the camp to head back to Amman for the night. The rain was not letting up, and the increasingly worsening weather only stood to prove how much the refugees are in need of supplies and clothing to help keep them warm. Yet at the end of the day, even among such dire circumstances, hope was ever present and the human spirit indomitable.

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  13. Day 2: Za’atari Refugee Camp – Save the Children Voices from the Field

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  16. Lady Griz hand Selvig 800th career win with 68 61 victory over PortlandGriz up to fifth in TSN poll, highest ranking of seasonBig Sky honors Sac State QB SafronNorth Dakota football coach firedSince 1897, the Cat Griz rivalry has captivated the stateFamily health: Prepare yourself and your vehicle for winter drivingFitness calendarBirths for Tuesday, November 19Angler with 4th place total takes Fall Mack Days fishing tournament titleWestern Montana hunters get help from fresh snow, rutIf the name Grace Coddington is familiar, you’ve probably seen the 2009 documentary film “The September Issue” about Vogue magazine’s Editor in Chief Anna Wintour, the most feared and revered woman in fashion. Now Coddington, the longtime creative director of Vogue, has her own star vehicle, an engaging memoir titled “Grace,” co written with Michael Roberts. For anyone with a passing interest in the fashion industry, it’s worth a read for the name dropping alone.As became clear in the film, which chronicled the magazine’s staff as they put together the 4 pound September 2007 issue, Coddington is not the Anna Wintour or Diana Vreeland type. You won’t hear her barking orders at assistants or making dramatic pronouncements about pink.But she is equally passionate, a wild haired dreamer who thinks that fashion should be transporting, provocative and even intellectual, who bemoans the dominance of celebrities and digital hocus pocus in fashion photography and who isn’t afraid to take on Wintour.The book is a window into how fashion has changed from a small, niche business into a global pop culture medium. It chronicles Coddington’s 50 years in the industry, first as a model, then as a fashion editor for British Vogue and finally as creative director for American Vogue, with lots of juicy anecdotes about designers, photographers, celebrities and models.She compares the fashion world then and now and offers clues into her relationship with Wintour. She’s also open about her private life, including details about failed marriages, the tragic death of her sister Rosemary and her 30 year romance with French hairstylist Didier Malige. She tells colorful stories behind many of the fashion shoots she has styled, but I do wish she had offered more insight into her role in the creative process.Coddington begins by painting a picture of her upbringing as romantic as any photo shoot. For her first 18 years, her home was the Trearddur Bay Hotel on the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales. “Although it was bleak, I saw beauty in the bleakness.” When she wasn’t outdoors, she amused herself by looking at picture books, reading fairy tales and, yes, studying the pages of Vogue magazine. As a teen, she went to a convent school and has vivid memories of the nuns roller skating on the rooftop, “flapping about surreally in their robes like crows on wheels.”At 18, she moved to London to attend a modeling course advertised in Vogue. The fashion world was much different in 1959. Coddington had to learn how to apply her own makeup and style her own hair, because makeup artists and hairdressers specializing in photo shoots were nonexistent. A meeting with photographer Norman Parkinson led to her first modeling job running naked through the woods for an arty fashion catalog.Coddington became an overnight success. “I was a character, rather than a pretty model, and I suppose that’s exactly what I look for in the girls I now select to put in American Vogue the ones who are quirky looking.”She earned the nickname “The Cod” (to Jean Shrimpton’s “The Shrimp”), danced the twist on Mary Quant’s catwalk and became a muse to Vidal Sassoon, who created his famous five point cut on Coddington. Her modeling career was derailed for two years by a car accident, which scarred her left eyelid. But eventually things picked up again, and she settled into life in 1960s swinging London and Paris, hanging out with a fast crowd that included Michael Caine, Jane Birkin, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.Her fashion editing career coincided with the beginning of her relationship with Michael Chow and the opening of his glamorous restaurant Mr. Chow, which attracted a starry crowd. “Naturally, we were forever being photographed at home, draped among our symbols of ‘with it ness’ as one of London’s most happening couples; him, the cool young restaurateur, nonchalantly swinging in a hammock hung from the minstrel’s gallery and me, the sophisticated style maker, perkily sitting cross legged atop a giant pop art version of a Campbell’s soup can.”At the height of the bohemian 1970s, she dyed her hair with henna and permed it (it would stay the same for much of the next 40 years), dressed almost exclusively in Yves Saint Laurent, had a fling with a Vietnamese photographer and spent her evenings at Club Sept in Paris. Coddington worked with the who’s who of fashion. She shot Anjelica Huston with photographer David Bailey and Pat Cleveland with Helmut Newton.When Bea Miller, who had edited British Vogue for 22 years, retired, Coddington interviewed for the job but says she knew deep down she wasn’t suited for it and thought that Wintour, then the creative director of American Vogue, should get it.Wintour did get it. Two days into her editorship, she invited Coddington to a screening of the racy film “Betty Blue.” The two sat in dead silence through the opening sequence, a vivid five minute sex scene.”Anna was rigid and unmoving. No sign of any emotion at all,” Coddington writes. “I then realized how much significance Anna places on willpower trumping feelings.”In 1988, when Wintour was appointed editor in chief at American Vogue, Coddington asked to join her. Coddington’s narrative style fashion features and travelogues, a sampling of which appear in the book, became the heart and soul of the magazine, even as its pages became increasingly taken over by celebrities. Through her visual canvases, she interpreted the New Romantic period, grunge and the South Beach blinged out 1990s, and persuaded superstar designers Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and others to play roles in a shoot based on “Alice in Wonderland.”She sums up her creative process this way: “For me, one of the most important aspects of my work is to give people something to dream about, just as I used to dream all those years ago as a child looking at beautiful photographs.”The book ends with a chapter on then and now. “Fashion has changed so much in my lifetime,” Coddington writes. “Today, I find myself at the collections, asking, ‘Who are all these people?’ Sometimes I think I’m the last remaining person who comes to the shows for the pleasure of seeing the clothes.”At 71, she seldom wears makeup and doesn’t socialize much. But her attempt in the last 100 pages to distance herself from the term “fashionista” is a bit of a stretch. Clearly, Coddington has led a most charmed life. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be reading about it.We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

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For anyone with a passing interest in the fashion industry, it’s worth a read for the name dropping alone.As became clear in the film, which chronicled the magazine’s staff as they put together the 4 pound September 2007 issue, Coddington is not the Anna Wintour or Diana Vreeland type. You won’t hear her barking orders at assistants or making dramatic pronouncements about pink.But she is equally passionate, a wild haired dreamer who thinks that fashion should be transporting, provocative and even intellectual, who bemoans the dominance of celebrities and digital hocus pocus in fashion photography and who isn’t afraid to take on Wintour.The book is a window into how fashion has changed from a small, niche business into a global pop culture medium. It chronicles Coddington’s 50 years in the industry, first as a model, then as a fashion editor for British Vogue and finally as creative director for American Vogue, with lots of juicy anecdotes about designers, photographers, celebrities and models.She compares the fashion world then and now and offers clues into her relationship with Wintour. She’s also open about her private life, including details about failed marriages, the tragic death of her sister Rosemary and her 30 year romance with French hairstylist Didier Malige. She tells colorful stories behind many of the fashion shoots she has styled, but I do wish she had offered more insight into her role in the creative process.Coddington begins by painting a picture of her upbringing as romantic as any photo shoot. For her first 18 years, her home was the Trearddur Bay Hotel on the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales. “Although it was bleak, I saw beauty in the bleakness.” When she wasn’t outdoors, she amused herself by looking at picture books, reading fairy tales and, yes, studying the pages of Vogue magazine. As a teen, she went to a convent school and has vivid memories of the nuns roller skating on the rooftop, “flapping about surreally in their robes like crows on wheels.”At 18, she moved to London to attend a modeling course advertised in Vogue. The fashion world was much different in 1959. Coddington had to learn how to apply her own makeup and style her own hair, because makeup artists and hairdressers specializing in photo shoots were nonexistent. A meeting with photographer Norman Parkinson led to her first modeling job running naked through the woods for an arty fashion catalog.Coddington became an overnight success. “I was a character, rather than a pretty model, and I suppose that’s exactly what I look for in the girls I now select to put in American Vogue the ones who are quirky looking.”She earned the nickname “The Cod” (to Jean Shrimpton’s “The Shrimp”), danced the twist on Mary Quant’s catwalk and became a muse to Vidal Sassoon, who created his famous five point cut on Coddington. Her modeling career was derailed for two years by a car accident, which scarred her left eyelid. But eventually things picked up again, and she settled into life in 1960s swinging London and Paris, hanging out with a fast crowd that included Michael Caine, Jane Birkin, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.Her fashion editing career coincided with the beginning of her relationship with Michael Chow and the opening of his glamorous restaurant Mr. Chow, which attracted a starry crowd. “Naturally, we were forever being photographed at home, draped among our symbols of ‘with it ness’ as one of London’s most happening couples; him, the cool young restaurateur, nonchalantly swinging in a hammock hung from the minstrel’s gallery and me, the sophisticated style maker, perkily sitting cross legged atop a giant pop art version of a Campbell’s soup can.”At the height of the bohemian 1970s, she dyed her hair with henna and permed it (it would stay the same for much of the next 40 years), dressed almost exclusively in Yves Saint Laurent, had a fling with a Vietnamese photographer and spent her evenings at Club Sept in Paris. Coddington worked with the who’s who of fashion. She shot Anjelica Huston with photographer David Bailey and Pat Cleveland with Helmut Newton.When Bea Miller, who had edited British Vogue for 22 years, retired, Coddington interviewed for the job but says she knew deep down she wasn’t suited for it and thought that Wintour, then the creative director of American Vogue, should get it.Wintour did get it. Two days into her editorship, she invited Coddington to a screening of the racy film “Betty Blue.” The two sat in dead silence through the opening sequence, a vivid five minute sex scene.”Anna was rigid and unmoving. No sign of any emotion at all,” Coddington writes. “I then realized how much significance Anna places on willpower trumping feelings.”In 1988, when Wintour was appointed editor in chief at American Vogue, Coddington asked to join her. Coddington’s narrative style fashion features and travelogues, a sampling of which appear in the book, became the heart and soul of the magazine, even as its pages became increasingly taken over by celebrities. Through her visual canvases, she interpreted the New Romantic period, grunge and the South Beach blinged out 1990s, and persuaded superstar designers Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and others to play roles in a shoot based on “Alice in Wonderland.”She sums up her creative process this way: “For me, one of the most important aspects of my work is to give people something to dream about, just as I used to dream all those years ago as a child looking at beautiful photographs.”The book ends with a chapter on then and now. “Fashion has changed so much in my lifetime,” Coddington writes. “Today, I find myself at the collections, asking, ‘Who are all these people?’ Sometimes I think I’m the last remaining person who comes to the shows for the pleasure of seeing the clothes.”At 71, she seldom wears makeup and doesn’t socialize much. But her attempt in the last 100 pages to distance herself from the term “fashionista” is a bit of a stretch. Clearly, Coddington has led a most charmed life. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be reading about it.We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

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