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August 8, 2013

Syrian Refugee Youths Settle into Permanent Camp Life

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In a little over a year, the Syrian refugee camp known as Zaatari has grown from a dusty patch of the Jordanian desert to a home to roughly 120,000 people. They are just some of the more than one million people who have fled the civil war in Syria.

However, with no end to the Syrian conflict in sight, many of the camp’s residents are starting to realize they will not be going home any time soon.

“In the last couple of months, Zaatari has taken on an air of permanence,” reports Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

Engineers have installed a new transformer to provide some electricity to the camp. Bright lights now illuminate a central shopping “street” that residents call the Champs Elysees after the famous center in Paris.

However, many residents, particularly the youth, are unhappy with life in the tent city. The stress of having escaped a war zone and now living in a refugee camp is taking its toll.

“These children have lived for a particularly long time in levels of stress that are incredibly profound. So, when that happens, there’s a part of your brain that goes, you have experienced too much,” says United Nations (UN) aid worker Jane MacPhail. “It turns itself off. You go into survivor mode.”

Warm up questions

1. What is a refugee?

2. What part of the world is Syria located in? What do you know about what is happening in Syria?

3. If you had to leave your home suddenly for safety and could only bring what you could carry what would it be? Remember you may not have access to electricity.

Discussion questions

1. If you were a teenager living in the Zaatari refugee camp, what do you think your life would be like? What specific challenges might you face?

2. What kind of items do you think you would find being sold on the “Champs Elysees”?

3. With over 200,000 deaths from the civil war in Syria, the chances are high that you may have lost family members or friends. How would you hold on to hope after such huge losses and the loss of your home?

4. Should countries like the United States help refugees from Syria? Should we send supplies? Should we let them move here?

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