Conflict Video story

From volunteer to teacher

Souad finds a new path after losing everything.

In the jargon of humanitarian organizations, a “displaced person” is someone forced to flee from one part of their country to another.

But this legalistic terminology obscures the horrifying realities these people face in a country torn apart by conflict. In Yemen, about 4 million have lost their property and their homes over the past seven years, forced to find safer areas in an effort to simply survive.

One of them is Souad. Along with her four children and her late husband, Souad left her village in Rayma for the capital Sana’a and then to a camp for “displaced persons” in Ma’rib.

“The war forced us to leave our home and go into displacement camps, where we had to confront our pain and suffering alone,” says Souad, whose story reveals another important reality: Even people facing tremendous hardship cannot be simply defined by labels or categories such as “displaced person” or “war victim”.

Indeed the case of Souad shows us, even people who live in camps for the displaced are so much more. As Souad tells her story inside her small dwelling on a recent afternoon, words such as mother, father, volunteer, teacher, scholar and survivor come to mind.

“As the war continued and worsened, many others, like me, chose to leave their homes and go to governorates they don’t know. In an attempt to avoid the scourge of war we found ourselves stuck — forced to move between the various regions of Yemen. We are now settled in the Al-Jafinah camp, living in poor conditions.”

Nearly 4 million people have lost their homes since the war began in Yemen, forced to flee and find safety somewhere else in a country. Souad and her four children are some of the many “displaced people” struggling to get by in the Al-Jafinah camp in the Ma’rib Governate.

There are few places people can go to find relief. Basic services in the country have almost collapsed, leaving millions of people in a disastrous situation. The country is now facing the world’s largest food security emergency with 20 million people – 66 per cent of the country’s population — in need of humanitarian aid.

“In our early days in the camp I couldn’t tolerate living in the tent. It was empty — only some blankets and mattresses on the floor. For me and my family the living situation was so harsh in all its aspects, especially with the lack of basic necessities. Living in this camp was a great shock to me. I never expected that I would live in such a place.”

“We used to spend our time struggling to provide the basic necessities of life from day to day. Our situation then improved and my husband found a job that helped us to cover our basic needs.

“But when the Corona virus reached Yemen, new obstacles emerged. Our lives were dominated by constant fear and anxiety, especially due to the difficulty in acquiring clean water and applying quarantine and social distancing measures.

“And this crisis has not spared my family. It took my husband’s life and posed a greater challenge to me that I had ever envisaged. It turned out that coming to the displacement camp was not the harshest part of the story. Without the support of my partner in this life, I had to take on the roles of both mother and father.”

Souad came to this camp for displaced people with her husband and four children. “Coming to the displacement camp was not the harshest part of the story,” says Souad, whose husband died soon after arriving at the camp. “Without the support of my partner in this life, I had to take on the roles of both mother and father.”

A new door opens

Souad had no space to even express her sorrow. She needed to focus on ensuring the survival of her children. A chance to volunteer for the Yemeni Red Crescent helped ease the burden of extra responsibilities after the death of her husband. The Red Crescent here has assisted millions of displaced people in the first half of 2021, though the needs are still immense.

“A month before my husband’s death I found out from Red Crescent volunteers who were distributing humanitarian aid to displaced persons that the Red Crescent had a vacancy for field surveys. I joined them and became a field surveyor with Yemeni Red Crescent teams.”

Souad continued to make every effort to find a job opportunity that would secure essentials such as food and drinking water for her children.

“I didn’t care about any of the difficult circumstances that my children and I were up against, the insecurity we faced as displaced persons, or even the rains and floods that affected our tent. My only concern was to find a job.”

Eventually Souad got the chance to work as a primary school teacher at Al Thawra School near the camp.

“I got this opportunity and became a primary-school teacher as a result of the support I received from my father to continue my education even after I had kids. I never expected that my education would be a lifesaver for me and my family one day.”

“The stories of our struggles as displaced persons will never end. It’s not only the constant efforts to provide food and water, but also dealing with the cold and severe weather in fragile tents. We’re also in constant fear of rampant diseases and epidemics.”

But we have to find ways to build a new way of life whenever difficult circumstances arise that destroy what we’ve built”.

Eventually Souad got the chance to work as a primary school teacher at a nearby school. “I got this opportunity as a result of the support I received from my father to continue my education even after I had kids. I never expected that my education would be a lifesaver for me and my family one day.”

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