Here, There and Everywhere

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Faces of Syrian Refugee Crisis

CARE President Dr. Helene D. Gayle Sees Faces of Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan: Leader of global humanitarian organization visits CARE’s work, meets Jordan’s Queen Rania and Prime Minister
From CARE.org

AMMAN (Oct. 2, 2013) – CARE President and CEO Helene D. Gayle visited Jordan this week to see firsthand the poverty-fighting organization’s work with Syrian refugees and meet senior national leaders and officials.

helene

Over half a million Syrians who fled their homeland now live in safe but difficult circumstances in Jordan. And while the public image of the crisis may be that of refugee camps, the vast majority of refugees — 75 percent in Jordan — live outside of camps, struggling to survive in poorer areas of cities. In these urban centers, CARE is helping refugees with emergency cash assistance for shelter, food, and medical care, provision of information on available services, case management and referral services.

“This is the world’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide, and yet, in a way, it’s almost invisible,” said Gayle. “But here in the poorest neighborhoods of Amman and other cities of Jordan, inside squalid apartments, seeing the faces of this crisis is unavoidable and shocking. More often than not, they are the faces of mothers and children in desperate living conditions.”

The refugee crisis began in spring 2011, when civil war broke out in Syria. As bombings and shootings escalated, more than 2 million people escaped to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. At least three-quarters of the refugees are women and children.

Gayle was particularly moved by Rawda, a Syrian widow who lost her husband in a bomb blast and now is struggling to care for five young children, including a seven-year-old son unable to walk after being injured by a bomb in Syria. “The situation of the people I’ve met is overwhelming. There are mothers and children who have witnessed their husbands or fathers dying in their arms,” Gayle said.

Soaring prices for food, electricity, and rent have swiftly impoverished hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Many refugees are not legally allowed to work in their host countries, so once their savings are gone, they face destitution.

Donor response, however, has not matched the scale of the humanitarian crisis. As of Oct. 2, the UN-led appeal of $4.4 billion is only at 49 percent funded. And CARE has secured less than 25 percent of the anticipated $50 million in funding needed for its life-saving response.

Nonetheless, CARE is scaling up. In Jordan, CARE’s cash grant program gives Syrian and Iraqi families emergency funds to meet urgent needs. CARE is providing life-saving services to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon and to people affected by the crisis in Syria. As the conflict escalates, CARE is also starting activities in Egypt and Yemen to help Syrian refugees there. CARE is impartial and neutral. Our support to families affected by the crisis in Syria is based on humanitarian needs alone, no matter people’s religion, political affiliation or ethnicity.

Gayle met with Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis as well as the long-term women’s empowerment programs that CARE runs in Jordan. Gayle recognized the generosity of Jordan in hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees. She repeated that message in a separate meeting with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, where discussions focused on how groups such as CARE can best help in a coordinated refugee response.

For all the challenges, Dr. Gayle said she was also left with a sense of hope while talking to refugees. “I see so much strength in women like Rawda. Even as she struggles to feed her own children, she managed to find a way to enroll them in school. I was truly moved by her resilience and determination.”

About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience delivering emergency aid during times of crisis. Our emergency responses focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations, particularly girls and women. Last year CARE worked in 84 countries and reached more than 83 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.

The English Lesson – Part I

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

They stopped at 410 Stadler. Sy kept the gas guzzling, early eighties Plymouth idling, as Ruthie got her folder together and clamped her purse shut.

“Got everything?” Sy asked.

Ruthie had her lesson plan in hand. “Yep, all here.”

Ruthie thought about her student, Mrs. Frankel, a seventy-five-year old widow who had been forced to learn English since the recent death of her husband.

Only ten years younger than Mrs. Frankel, Ruthie had recently retired after a thirty-year career as secretary for the County Social Service department. She’d tried staying at home, but felt antsy and unproductive.

She’d wanted to help others, so she took classes on how to teach English and tutor people in their own homes. If she’d known her students could be as difficult as Mrs. Frankel, she might have stayed home and watched re-runs of Dick Van Dyke.

Ruthie considered herself to be in pretty good shape. She walked or swam daily, slept well and maintained a healthy diet. It gave her pause when she thought, “but by the grace of God” she could end up as bent and spiteful as Mrs. Frankel.

“She’s one of the rudest women I have ever met,” she told Sy. “Do you know what she said to me last week?” She didn’t wait for his answer. “She said, ‘Sit up! You’re not a teenager; this important class.’ She treated me like a little kid!”

Sy pecked his wife of thirty-four years on the cheek. “Come back for you in an hour?”

Ruthie closed the car door with a solid thud and blew Sy a kiss as he drove off in a cloud of white steam rising from the exhaust into the cold, fall-morning air. She tied her dark green scarf tightly around her neck, smoothed out her off-white, below-the-knee skirt and approached Mrs. Frankel’s aging home; a fortress of red brick and peeling, dirty paint that seemed to dare someone to approach or disturb its occupant. The porch had a metal grate topping off the brick base and an eight-foot, iron-bared gate. Using their secret code, Ruthie rang the doorbell three long blasts, then a short jolt, to seek permission to enter her student’s premises. She gave a start as Mrs. Frankel suddenly appeared and unlocked the rusting gate.

“Frau Ruth. You’re late!” Mrs. Frankel admonished; her small, upturned nose flaring as she turned towards the living room. Her short, curled, gray-haired wig bounced with each step, briefly revealing the dry skin on her bent neck.

“Good to see you,” Ruthie forced a smile and followed the neatly-attired, rickety old woman through the parlor, into a living room cluttered with antiquities. Mrs. Frankel plopped her spine-shrunken body into her polished maple chair of propriety, while Ruthie crossed the fraying, deep-red carpet to sit on her designated seat; an early twentieth century sofa with curled armrests and club feet.

Hilda, the fat, brown-stripped cat, lay on the rug, barely lifting an eyelid to acknowledge Ruthie’s presence. Hilda was nearly as old as the furniture and moved about as often.

The sitting arrangement was, to say the least, a bit awkward. It was quite a feat to explain the lesson from across the room to the hard-of-hearing learner. Inevitably, Ruthie would have to rise, cross the room and repeat her self several times, then return to her preordained position.

“You think I am a stupid, not?!” Mrs. Frankel shouted.

“What?” Ruthie replied meekly.

“You heard me! You think I stupid?!”

“Stupid, no, stubborn, yes!” replied Ruthie, surprising herself.

“Stewburn?” Mrs. Frankel said awkwardly. “Is stewburn good or bad?”

“I mean,” Ruthie shouted. “You are one hard nut to crack.”

“A cracked nut?”

Mrs. Frankel looked like a deer caught in headlights. Ruthie laughed, in spite of her best intention to the contrary. Obviously insulted, Mrs. Frankel’s pale blue eyes narrowed like two tiny laser beams on an enemy target.

Ruthie took a deep breath for reinforcement and put a lid on her natural reaction. “It’s an expression. It means you are hard to figure out,” she explained, “difficult to know.”

Mrs. Frankel looked down at her wrinkled, spotted hands, then sighed and said, “You think I like this?” She raised her head and looked directly at Ruthie. “I am proud woman. I never want to be in this crazy country. I come because I need to follow husband.” She looked at the cat and sighed. “Now, it just Hilda and me.”

“I’m sorry,” Ruthie said sincerely, not sure if her condolence would be received or accepted.

Mrs. Frankel suddenly sat up as straight as her crooked body would allow and turned to her present endeavor. Holding up the learning sheet and turning it slightly towards Ruthie, she pointed at the first line with renewed obstinacy and demanded, “Now . . . what this?!”
Ruthie started to rise and move closer, but was frowned at fiercely. She squinted in the dimly lit room and tried to decipher the line from where she sat.

“I say, What this?!” Mrs. Frankel held the page aloft, shaking it like some offending piece of evidence. “I not understand!”
Ruthie strained to see.

“Come here!” Exasperation clung to Mrs. Frankel’s command.

CONTINUED TOMORROW

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