The great fire of Shariya Camp broke out during the Friday afternoon siesta time on June 4th. It took two months until those displaced were able to return to their "homes" which were no longer tents but simple block buildings.
As you will recall, our summer months changed course overnight to help those displaced, we fed, we provided water five times a day as there were no means of keeping water cool. We purchased household items, washing machines, water coolers, stoves, etc. We provided utensils, mattresses, and clothes. All we had, we gave. We opened The Hope Centre to provide a framework for their children, and counselling for those in need.
This week we went to visit some of those now living in more permanent buildings, to say hi and see whether, and how life in a block building has affected them.
"I live in a very small house, but my window looks out on a very large world." - Confucius
"We were so deeply traumatized by the fire. Once again we lost the very little that we had been able to accumulate during the past seven years of camp life. It was a total disaster, a horror to see our tent burning in front of our eyes, once again as bystanders unable to prevent it, and unable to do anything other than run for safety.
In those moments and the days that followed we could not have dreamed that our life would totally, 100% change for the better. I remembered the old proverb, that when God closes a door he opens a window. I told Raad and my children to remember that saying, that it is truth. God sees us in every situation, so we should never give up, he has a solution that is always better than the situation.
Almost four months have passed, and I am so happy. I never would have dreamed that I would have a comfortable safe room where I do not need to fear fire. I have a window. That was the window that God gave me. And I hear that the camp management will actually cement the alley way so that it will be a road outside.
I still can not believe that I am living in this tiny house. I can not believe that I have a kitchen where it is safe to cook. Every morning when I wake up I truly think that I am in heaven. Every evening when I lay my head on my mattress, I thank God for giving me this wonderful home.
Before the fire, we never slept in peace. We always had the thought of fire in the night in our mind, and that affected our sleep over seven years. We slept but we were always alert. Now we sleep and our minds and bodies are stronger because we do rest.
We also don't face the challenge of winter, I am a widow but I have boys who can help me, but there are those widows who are alone with no one to repair the tents after the damage of the previous winter and heat of the summer. I believe that this winter will be different, we will no longer be pummeled by the rain and the wind and have to get the rain out in the middle of the night, and be scared of the tent being washed away.
As for my window, oh my window. I love my window. Imagine if you can, living in a tent with no window for seven years. I always felt that we were living in a cave with one light bulb. Psychologically and emotionally we were exhausted and broken. Now we have a window, we can breathe and we have enough light. My joy is to open the window in the morning, to breathe fresh air and not the seven year old stale smell of the tent and the camp.
Raad painted our room, our house with our favourite colours, we are so happy. With every day that passes we become emotionally stronger. We have arranged our simple things with great care in our new house. Finally, after seven years we all feel that we have a home, that we are at home, even though legally it does not belong to us. Finally, after seven years we are living again. We are at peace. My husband died without seeing this, I know that he would be so happy for us. I planted his favorite vegetable outside our door, corn.
We are so grateful to Springs of Hope who were with us from the first moments of the fire until we received this new house. You provided everything for us, but it wasn't about goods, about material things, you stayed with us day and night. Our sorrow became your sorrow. You were not an NGO giving something and going. You were our family. Our life was your life, your life was our life. You carried us throughout this hard period. Our door is always open to you. You are our family.
It is hard for us to be living in a palace when our friends are still living in a tent. We do not want any more fires or disasters but our prayer is that everyone in the camp will have a new house like ours. A house with a window."
- Ayshan, Mum to our student and volunteer, Raad.