Finding Our Way in Zaatari Camp

ImageBearing witness is sometimes all one can do, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Walking through the Za’atari refugee camp on the Syria/Jordan border yesterday that was the only service, the only gift we could offer. We looked, we laughed, we listened, we held babies and held hands, we looked deep into the eyes of our sisters.

In moments like these I  find myself repeating a very context specific mantra: by the grace of God go I. I don’t understand the reason, if there is one, that explains why we find ourselves born into the families and cultures that we are. It reminds me to leave my judgement of choices made, what do I know of such choices? It reminds me that we are all bound together on this wild ride and that what hurts one, hurts us all.

The first day upon arriving is the second hardest day for me on these trips. The day we leave will be the hardest. Of the ten days in between I hope first to find a place for COHI to contribute in an intentional, thoughtful, and uplifting way. Supplies that we brought will be delivered throughout the week, and we have many meetings ahead of us here as we find the right place for COHI to hunker down and join the band of health care workers here.

There are now well over 100,000 refugees in the camp we visited today, more coming each day. Those families deserve care, health, comfort, and safety. It is my goal that COHI join the efforts of those working tirelessly to bring this to them, and I look forward to the next week of finding our way in that process.

It’s 4 am in Jordan and I am writing these words on the floor of our hotel bathroom. The image from today that is circling in my tired mind is this one: a mother stands washing some clothes by hand in one of the thousands of open air, single sex bathrooms in the camps. She is regal in her stature, and her face has strong features. Her head is covered and she wears a floor length robe. Behind her are her two sons, not far from the ages of my own sons. They are sitting in the basin used for rinsing dishes. There are no toys, they wear no socks. They wait for their mother to finish her work, they look me directly in the face and they are slow to smile. Not because they are shy. Because they are scared. I ask the mama if she comes to this public, women’s only restroom at night, she says no. There are no lights and it is very scary for her. Her family, like thousand of others, digs a hole outside of their tent for the family to use as a toilet during the dark night hours. These holes are deep, a small child could easily fall in, and the contents contribute to the pervasive smell of ammonia in a place that many thousands of people toil each day with the shared goal of improving hygiene.

The bathroom where I write these words looks much like the bathroom many of these refugees left behind: it’s clean with a stone floor, flushable toilets, a sink, and a light switch. It’s safe.

By the grace of God go I.

Sera Bonds
Amman, Jordan


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