Only 18 years old when he arrived in Jordan eight years ago, Ammar can still recall in vivid detail his journey from Syria to Jordan.
Originally from Damascus, he describes the moment when his older brother was arrested after being caught up in fighting which had engulfed their neighborhood. “I had no choice, if he was a target then I was also a target.”
As a result, after his brother was arrested, Ammar explains how “I just got in the car and left. I wanted to come to Jordan, but because of the fighting in Daraa at the time the road from Damascus to the border was closed so I had to go to Lebanon.”
After only a couple of weeks in Lebanon, however, Ammar decided to try again to come to Jordan. “I didn’t feel settled there. There was a lot of hostility and I had seen reports that Jordan was more open,” Ammar says.
Softly spoken, relief lights up Ammar’s face when he describes the moment he finally arrived in Amman. “As soon as I stepped on Jordanian soil, it felt like home. It is difficult to describe, but I felt like I was in the right place.” He registered with UNHCR and holds a Minister of Interior card for Syrian refugees, which grants him legal protection, freedom of movements, and allows him to access services provided by humanitarian agencies and the Government of Jordan.
To try and support himself, Ammar initially tried to find informal work in Amman’s markets and shops but as a young single man, he struggled to become part of the community. With no family in Jordan, he had no support system and with no qualifications after the conflict cut off his hopes of going to university, he had to find his own way in building a future.
Slowly but surely, he made friends, found an apartment to live in and tried to get by as best he could. Everything changed when he saw an announcement looking for volunteers to work at Nuzha Community Centre in East Amman.
With his family – mum, sisters and one brother – still in Syria, however, Ammar says he never stops worrying. That although he speaks to them every day, he feels helpless as if something happens there is nothing he can do from a distance. “Although the situation where they are living has improved recently and the bombs have stopped, there is still no electricity, gas, work. People regularly go hungry. What kind of life is that?”
Despite this, Nuzha has become a refuge for him. “The people here are my family,” Ammar says. “I don’t feel like it is work. I come here every day with a smile on my face. It makes life better, for me, the volunteers and all the refugees who come here.”