As an American I am appalled and heartbroken by the American government’s attempt to ban refugees.
The small charity for refugees that I run in Amman, Jordan, has a policy of not turning anyone away. Anyone who comes to our door will find it open to them. Refugees have been through so much trauma, and it’s our aim to make them feel seen and heard.
Collateral Repair Project has very close ties to the Pacific Northwest. It was founded by two dynamic Oregon women who wanted to establish a direct connection between Americans and innocent Iraqis who suffered from the Iraq war. We now serve refugees from many countries and make it our mission to aid people who cannot take care of their most basic needs.
When I left Seattle to return to Amman six years ago, I became involved with the organization because I saw the real impact it was making for refugees who had lost everything. More than 70 percent of our funds come from individual donors, and they go directly to providing critical items like food, blankets and mattresses to the nearly 15,000 refugees we assist and ensuring that hundreds of children are able to attend school. Our vibrant community center offers refugees opportunities to learn, build community and heal from trauma.
It has been six years, yet still every day I am overwhelmed. There are roughly 750,000 registered refugees here in Jordan from Syria and Iraq. They arrive in waves, depending on where the fighting takes place. In 2012, they came from the Syrian cities of Daara and Homs. In 2014, they came from Mosul, Iraq, when ISIS took control of the city. Many have walked into Jordan with only what they could carry. The haste in which they had to leave their homes meant they could not sell off their valuable assets and so almost instantly became poor.
Refugees are largely forbidden by law to work in Jordan, so their ability to pay rent and feed their families is quickly exhausted. The typical refugee couple who knocks on our door has perhaps $40, their rent is past due and they have two or three children to feed. The $100 needed for school books and a school uniforms is far beyond their means, so their children are not in school. Not so long ago they had homes and community and gossiped about their neighbors like the rest of us.
As an American I am appalled and heartbroken by the American government’s attempt to ban refugees. The protests against this prove that people around the world are similarly concerned. That being said, I hope that if people really care about refugees they will also give a thought to the countries that are actually handling the bulk of this international crisis.
Currently only 1 percent of refugees will ever have the chance to be resettled in a country in the West, and only one-tenth of that 1 percent have ever been or will ever be going to the U.S. The majority of refugees are destined to stay in their countries of first asylum — Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — and their situation here is desperate.
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Supporting refugees in first asylum countries has much more impact and keeps them from being tempted to risk everything, including their lives, in making often perilous boat journeys from Turkey to Greece to attempt to enter Europe.
I ask those of you who care about the plight of refugees to please consider donating to organizationsthat are working where the vast majority of refugees live. We also need you to pressure your government to make good on its pledges. Last year, only 59 percent of money pledged to the United Nations by governments worldwide to assist Syrian refugees was actually received. Fifty dollars can feed a family of four for one month. We have hundreds of families on our waiting list and the doorbell keeps ringing.