The Middle East 2016

Refugees International Japan (RIJ) regularly visits project sites and refugee communities all over the world to see firsthand the impacts of our support and your donations. We are lucky to meet individuals who are willing to share their personal stories, who teach us that there is more to reality than the sad stories the media often presents. Individuals and communities do their best to rebuild their lives and prepare for the future, and their hard work and positive spirits is a great inspiration for us at RIJ.                                                       


Jordan is a major hub for refugees in the Middle East. Its policy of open borders has proven instrumental in recent years, resulting in large numbers of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Palestine. An estimated 747,000 refugees have arrived in Jordan since the conflict in Syria began. The Za’atari Refugee camp is now recognized as the fourth largest ‘city’ in Jordan.

Increasing Women’s Participation inside Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan 

We met the women who attended the journalism workshop, which was led by Hada. They gave us a copy of “Yasmin”, the ultimate result of their training and expression, which we have scanned and uploaded (Part 1 & 2). Click here for more information on the project.

We were touched to hear that working on the magazine has allowed these women to overcome shyness and realize the potential of what they can actually achieve. They now know they can express themselves and have influence over others, as opposed to being passive and reserved in their community. Their progress is a great example of our philosophy that projects should allow refugees to not just recover, but to also re-discover and continue improving themselves.

We caught wind of serendipitous instances of the magazine bringing people back together. Amina reconnected with another woman, whom she did not know was in the camp, while working on the magazine. 


Turkey is currently hosting the largest population of refugees in the world as a result of the conflict in Syria. There are currently 2,715,789 Syrian refugees registered in Turkey. In order to register, refugees must attend an interview and prove they have a place of abode; therefore an assumedly large number of refugees are living there unregistered. It is estimated only around 11 percent of Syrians are residing in refugee camps, and the rest live amongst the Turkish population in cities and border towns.


Supporting Amity with Art in Turkey (SMART)

RIJ funded Mercy Corps’ art program (SMART), which used art to facilitate cross-cultural understanding between Syrian refugee youths and their hosts in Turkey, as well as provide classes to enhance their life skills. Click here for more information on the project. 

We are pleased report the project is very popular with the local community, with 103 participants who are now forming new connections and standing in solidarity with their community.

We were shown the beautiful murals made by the young artists that now adorn various learning centers and orphanages in the area. The murals include themes of community, hope, and peace. As a testament to project’s ability to empower Syrian and Turkish youth, Mercy Corps will bring in the first time participants as facilitators for the next SMART project.

We saw clear evidence the Mercy Corps’ learning centers are providing an education essential for living a dignified life. There are children as young as ten were enthusiastically learning about self-confidence and how to introduce themselves.

Our excess funds to MC were granted to a project called Utopia. 300 children under the age of 10 years from various backgrounds attend classes with Utopia teaching cookery, origami, felt-work, mask-making, drama and body percussion. Needless to say, there was a lot of energy! 


Although RIJ was not funding a project in Lebanon at the time of this visit, we felt it was imperative to report on its current refugee situation. Lebanon has historically maintained an open door policy, welcoming Palestinian refugees and Syrian refugees—although this policy recently became more stringent. The large outflow of people fleeing Syria and the small population size of Lebanon has resulted in a population ratio of 1 refugee for every 3 citizens.

We met with an organization we have funded in the past called PARD (Popular Aid for Relief and Development). Rita and Rashid from PARD showed us the poor housing conditions of refugees facing increasing rents and decreasing opportunities for employment. They took us to Daouk; an informal settlement of refugees lacking services as essential as clean water. As the population has nearly doubled, settlers are forced to live in undersized and precarious shelters.  One family told us they don’t need a heater for their shelter, because six people in one tiny room generate enough warmth.

A resident of Daouk, Abdi Salem, told us how ashamed he was when his family’s situation was broadcasted on TV. Abdi’s thoughts echo the importance of restoring feelings of pride and dignity to those refugees who feel shame for a destiny they did not choose.

From the Beneficiaries:


“It (Yasmin) is our window on the world”.

“I come from a conservative society in Syria and now I can use
these skills when I return and make a difference for women living there.”


“When we drew it, every colour represents Syria,” and
“Syria is hugging friends, houses, tents (that represent us as refugees)
and there is a dark side and a good side. Our community also has the
ups and downs.”

“Let peace be in the world just one day” – From one of the murals