Meeting for the first time at Azraq refugee camp, Hussam (right) shares his story with Oliver, Field Communications Advisor for World Vision New Zealand.
I first met Hussam in the middle of winter in Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan in January 2016. Since then, we’ve stayed in touch, World Vision has continued to tell his story, and national and international media took interest in him. I had drafted a story about him then, but last month I met him again, in an entirely different situation.
I had travelled to Azraq as part of my communications role with World Vision. It was the end of the day when a young guy named Hussam came up and introduced himself to me. His teacher had encouraged him to go visit the ‘World Vision people’, because it would be a good way for him to practice the English he had learned over his last 18 months in the camp.
He opened up about life in Syria. Reminiscing on what he once had, the house he once called home, and the friends he once hung out with.
“What do you miss the most” I asked. “Everything” he replied, “It’s my homeland. Where are you from?” I told him I lived in New Zealand. “Well, now that you’re away here in Jordan, don’t you miss your homeland too?”
At Azraq refugee camp, Oliver sits in Hussam's home. Tin shelters like these house 50,000 others at the camp.
The conflict in Syria meant staying wasn’t an option for Hussam. While sitting an exam his school was bombed, “The teacher yelled at us to get on the ground. We stayed there for a while, then I left, I ran home, I was in shock. My parents and brother thought I was dead. They were crying.”
After that experience, Hussam’s family and some others decided to leave. His father and older brother fled to Stuttgart, Germany. His sisters remained with their husbands in Syria - Hussam hadn’t heard from them because the internet had been out in Azraq for over a month. He, his mother, and brother braved the journey to Jordan.
Their journey was dangerous, and at times seemed hopeless – he named it ‘The Deathway’
. Helicopters dropped bombs on them, and the smugglers they paid deserted them. However, they made it to Azraq, and were there for 18 months desperately wanted to be reunited with their family in Germany. It was at that stage that Hussam and I crossed paths.
Not long after Hussam also met Liam Cunningham (Davos from Game of Thrones) who visited Azraq with World Vision:
Since then we’ve stayed in touch and Hussam often shared his frustrations he had with the authorities as he and his mother tried to get reunification visas to Germany. Documents that were left in Syria made the process long and difficult. But finally, in September, he got the visa, and two weeks later, after boarding his first plane, arrived in Stuttgart.
I happened to be on holiday on that side of the world when he arrived in Stuttgart and I travelled down to visit Hussam. We also brought Liam Cunningham along to surprise Hussam having stayed in touch.
Liam Cunningham, Hussam and Oliver all reunited in Stuttgart, Germany, just weeks after Hussam's resettlement.
Hussam and his family are now finding their feet in Germany. It’s not been easy, there’s the issue of finding affordable accommodation, suitable school, and learning German, on top of the cultural differences. However, Hussam feels lucky to be there, thankful to be with his family once again, and determined to one day return to Syria to help it recover.