Bassam Zaarwoor

Bassam Zaarwoor

January 12, 2015

ZARQA, JORDAN – Before the bombing started in Syria, Bassam Zaarwoor owned an electric shop in Homs.

"I was a wealthy man," he said. "I had my own car, my own shop."

But as the war worsened, some of his friends were killed in front of him, and "some of my family members, they just disappeared."

When he used his savings to flee Syria with his family in 2012, he went to the Catholic aid agency Caritas for medical assistance. Caritas staffers offered him computer training skills – one of the many services the agency offers Syrian refugees.

Zaarwoor said he saw staffers' workload and decided to volunteer. Initially, he worked two hours a day. By late October, he was working eight hours a day.

"When I first came to Jordan, I was very depressed," he said. "I couldn't provide for my family's needs."

Volunteering helped pull him out of that depression, he said, because "doing what I do right now gave me hope and satisfaction." He said many Syrian refugees would communicate more with him than the Jordanian workers because he was from their country.

Zaarwoor's story has a happier ending than many of the Syrian refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. Shortly after this interview, he was resettled in Britain.

But while he was living in Zarqa with his wife and their 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, money was very tight. He said he received about $140 per month from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; about $43 per family member in World Health Organization vouchers; and a small stipend from Caritas Jordan to help with his rent.

The total, he said, "barely covers my basic, basic, basic expenses."

If security returned to what it was before the violence began in 2011, Zaarwoor said he would return to Syria.

"Otherwise no," he said, "because I'm responsible for the security of my kids."