Displaced but finding new purpose in Jordan's Zaatari camp

Syrian refugee Saly Emad el-Moullen left her life behind in Syria, but working with children in Zaatari camp has helped her build a new one in Jordan.

Christa Case Bryant/TCSM
Saly Emad el-Moullen is helping Syrian refugee children paint tiles to decorate the communal bathrooms they and their families use in the Zaatari refugee camp.

Saly Emad el-Moullen is a Syrian refugee herself, but she has found new purpose in Jordan by helping with an Oxfam project that seeks to give children of a stake in their temporary home through art.

In this camp of 120,000, children make up roughly half the population. Although 30,000 of them are school-age, only 6,000 or so are in school. A third school is being constructed, but there are will still be far too few classrooms for so many little faces which, despite the tragedies of war, still show an eager spark of curiosity.

On a recent day Ms. El-Moullen oversaw a group of youngsters painting tiles for the bathrooms they and their families use.

“It’s amazing…. I feel like I’m doing something for my country, something good,” says El-Moullen as kids run up with their completed tiles and she carefully marks them for the men’s or women’s bathroom, depending on the child’s gender.

A graduate of Damascus University who studied statistics, El-Moullen was working at a a kindergarten in Damascus before she left 11 months ago for Jordan.

It was hard for her to see her countrymen suffering in a refugee camp, but Oxfam social coordinator Jeff Silverman told her to be strong. “I used to always cry,” she says.

But now she doesn’t seem to stop smiling as her eyes following the kids running around their tiles laid out on the ground.

“And here I am, I stopped crying," she says.

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