February 6, 2014

Neighbors of Za’atari Part Two: Ziyad

Everything around us in the camp is white– the stones on the ground, the tents, the caravans, the cement. The only thing that breaks up the visual monotony is 10 kids weaving in and out of us, periodically saying “Hello” and gesturing for us to take photos. Three of them, all red-heads, persistently pull on our shirts to show us something nearby.

We round the corner to see what they’re pointing at and discover this gorgeous stone fountain:


The artist behind it, an unimposing man and the father of the three red-heads, walks out from his caravan grinning. Just like the vast majority of the people here, Ziyad is excessively friendly and eager to show us around. As it turns out, the fountain is just one of his many works of art. He built a bedroom for his kids, fashioned a bread oven, planted a garden, pieced together a storefront and is in the process of adding a private bathroom and cement patio to his caravan. Most impressively, he’s built most of it by repurposing aid items.

Created a roof using free UNHCR floor mats
Created a roof using free UNHCR floor mats
Pulled up his floorboards, put down cement, and then used the boards for walls!

We sit for a few hours together and listen to his story. Most of all, he wants his family to feel at home again. With a heavy heart, he explains the difficulty of his decision to accept that his family’s return to Syria may not come quickly and instead invest in this temporary home in Za’atari. Ziyad is an example of how many people here in the camp, including the aid workers, recognize the slow progress of the peace talks in Syria and, as a result, begin to shift their mindset from temporary to longer-term.


For now, he has brightened our day. He lives only a few minutes from our tent, so we’ll make sure to post some more photos as his projects continue!

If you were inspired by Ziyad’s story, please consider donating to our Salam Neighbor Crowdrise page (below). 100% of the donations goes to our humanitarian partners working in Za’atari to support families like Ziyad’s. Every little bit counts! Thank you!