WORK IS LIFE: CASH FOR WORK PROGRAM RESTORES SOME STABILITY TO THE LIVES OF AIDA AND HER FAMILY
Despite the hardships of war and displacement, Mrs. Aida never lost hope for a better life for her family.
Aida or, as her family calls her, Um Abdo, is a wife and the mother of five children. Like hundreds of thousands of other displaced people in northern Syria, she and her family endured war and displacement before settling in a northern Idlib camp for Internally Displaced Persons, Kafr Zita. Um Abdo said, “When our Kafr Zita, our home village, was bombed, we left with only the clothes on our back. We had to move from one place to another... Shelling, destruction and displacement were everywhere.”
Conditions for this family did not necessarily improve when they settled in the Kafr Zita camp. Um Abdo describes: “It is not a life at all. A person [here] is deprived of everything. There are no jobs, no income, and no way to secure a living. I couldn’t even buy bread or clothing for my children – we couldn’t provide them with a plate of food.”
Um Abdo’s situation went from bad to worse, especially since her husband is ill and can barely work. She said, “Even if he finds a job and goes out for it, he comes back sick, and has to stay in bed for two or three days.”
But Um Abdo saw an opportunity for change when she read a notice displayed on a wall in the camp. The paper included an announcement from BINAA for Development stating that the Organization sought a woman for cleaning services in the camp facilities. Um Abdo said that she read the notice and registered via the provided link to apply for the job. “I checked the link, registered, and was accepted. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.”
This job opportunity arose through the cash-for-work program implemented by BINAA within its various projects and programs in northern Syria. The program offers Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) an opportunity to earn income via work that has a direct impact on their lives and the lives of their communities.
Describing the significance of her new job, Um Abdo said that
“we are here in the camp. Cleanliness is the priority… especially in this time of epidemics and diseases.”
“I go out to work at 8.00 AM. I take a bucket, a wiper and detergent… I rinse the blocks and clean them thoroughly.” She repeats this task at midday before she goes home.
Um Abdo is passionate about the value of the work for her. “I finally felt that I was useful to this camp and to those around me. I clean the block, leaving it spotless. I am an active element, and I have value.”
“And”, she adds,
“I have an income by which I can support my children.”
Today, Um Abdo manages the affairs of her family according to her capabilities. “It’s all still very difficult...there are still so many deprivations.” As the de facto head of the family, Um Abdo organizes priorities “according to the allotted salary”, saying “a person has to try to live.”
As important, she says, is that the work provides her with a measure of stability. “Work is life… If you have no work, then you have nothing – this is death. It is important to make an effort, work and get paid. Today I am able to support my household and improve my affairs. I am also paying off my debts… I am managing the situation, praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.”
However, Um Abdo still has serious concerns. She says, “I think about our situation, that we have a shelter without a proper roof. In winter, it could tear or collapse. I think that my children are young, and that they need clothes.”
Even so, she is not without hope. “I dream of a day that will be better than the day that has passed”, she says. With a shy laugh, she continues. “I mean, everyone thinks about their children, and I dream that mine will be the best people, that they will study and that they will have a decent profession.”
Displaced from the village of Kafr Zita in the northern countryside of Hama, and currently residing in the Kafr Zita camp near the Turkish borders, Um Abdo concludes our conversation earnestly: “There is nothing better than work, and I hope this job will last for me.”