Amid the bleakness, a story of hope and solidarity from a refugee camp

Amid the bleakness, a story of hope and solidarity from a refugee camp

Last year we reported on a very moving letter written by a Syrian refugee who asked for help emigrating to a country where he and his sister could resume their university studies interrupted by civil war.

Twenty-one-year-old Ahmad, who was studying English literature, gave the note written on a ration card to a member of the UN's refugee agency at the Zaatari camp, where he has spent the last two years among 80,000 refugees in Jordan.

He wrote:

If we have the chance to live there we'll fulfill our dreams. Aren't we human beings? Are we born to eat drink and sleep only?

What's our sin and fault? Aren't we worthy of honourable life? Our life has become unbearable hell? Please help us.

Months later, the UNHCR got back in touch with to share one British student's response to coverage of Ahmad's letter.

Clare Henley, from Surrey and studying at King's College in London, said she was compelled to write back to Ahmad.

She said she couldn't imagine not being able to go to university and that the disparity between life in the UK and Syria or other parts of the Middle East was "inconceivable".

She wrote:

I am terribly, terribly sorry for the horrific things that are happening. I hope these books bring you some joy and mean you don't feel too far from your studies. You will return to them one day, I'm certain. Don't lose hope. All my love. Clare.

Included with the package were 12 books including Of Mice and Men, Flowers for Algernon, and some by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

Ahmad, according to the UNHCR usually a man of few words, said of the letter:

I was surprised that someone in the other side of the planet cares about my actual situation, it eased my suffering and brought some joy to me. My sister has already started with one book, I work most of the time to provide to the family, so I have to organise myself better to start reading, and get into the habit of reading books again, after a rupture of nearly 2 years. I would like to thank her for this kind gesture, maybe she has no idea how much happiness she gave me and my sister, maybe thank you is not enough, I am amazed that someone who is not related to me in any way would feel concerned. She could have just read my story and moved on, instead she chose to react. I wish this person a very nice and peaceful life, it is full of humanity, humility and it is easy to say that she has a beautiful heart, may God bless her.

As a sad postscript to this story, although we originally reported Ahmad was on the brink of accepting a scholarship to study abroad he has since decided to reject the offer, preferring to instead remain with his sister until they can find a route out of the refugee camp together.

More: [Everyone should read this heart-breaking letter from a Syrian refugee]2

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