“Even though there is bombing, I want to go home to Syria”: Shifa’s story

jordan-shifa2cropShifa*, 16, has lived in Za’atari refugee camp for more than a year. She fled from Dera’a, southern Syria, with her mother and father, three brothers and two sisters. “There was bombing in our village so we got into the car and went to the border. It was very frightening and scary. It took three days to get to Za’atari.”

Shifa’s uncle and her eight-year-old cousin were injured in Syria. Her cousin was shot in the head but she survived and is also now living in Za’atari. Her uncle was captured and forced to stay in Syria. Shifa misses her uncle and also her brother who still lives in Syria but she speaks to them on the phone.

“For the first month I used to cry every day, but after that I got used to it,” Shifa said. “Life is different. We had a good living situation in Syria but now it’s bad. I miss my home. Even though there’s bombing, I want to go home. I miss Fatema, my friend from school.”

Shifa (left) and her friend Salam at school in Jordan. Shifa (left) and her friend Salam at school in Za’atari.The impact of war means many children miss out on education. Unicef is working to ensure that the 16,000 registered school-aged Syrian children living in Za’atari do not lose their right to education by setting up temporary schools. Shifa is in grade 9 at School 3, one of three schools set up and managed by Unicef. “I enjoy coming to school and seeing my friend, Salam,” she says. “Since I was a little girl I’ve liked school.” Shifa wants to become a pharmacist so that she can help people back in Syria.

As the eldest, Shifa helps her mother with the housework in the camp, washing clothes and doing chores. “It’s much harder here. In Syria we had tools; a washing machine and a blender to make a meal. Here, everything is manual.”

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*All names have been changed to protect identities

All photos: Unicef 2014 Jordi Matas