Arabs Helping Arabs

They were waiting for three hours.

In Mafraq, just a 12 minute drive from the Syrian border, sitting in crowded oven-like room refugees–women, men, and children—needed clothes.

One-by-one they were escorted by a volunteer to the tables piled with lightly used pants, skirts, hijabs, shirts, shoes, and anything else the volunteers had collected.  The flee market was an organized system with a section for men, women, boys, girls, shoes, and bed sheets.  Many of the refugees were women picking up clothes for a family of two girls and two boys with a baby on the way.

I was working the hijab table, unfortunately, it was the smallest table in the flee market of clothes.  Each woman in the family was able to select a scarf, but we only had one box and a bag of hijabs.  After an hour we had to start turning women away looking for scarves.  Eventually, I gained the confidence to escort a few women to find clothing for their children and husbands.  Many of them just needed the essentials, which made me really rethink the amount of clothes and extra things I don’t need on a daily basis.

After two hours crowds were restless and started pushing on the makeshift barrier between the flee market and the waiting area for the refugees.  Women and men entered the store clenching small blue books given to them by the UN.  One volunteer explained to me that these books were to receive help and services by the local governorate of Jordan.

My volunteer experience was with a group of 50 engineering students from the University of Jordan devoting their labor day to serving the fellow Arabs.  These young college students from Amman who have everything at their finger-tips realize how fortunate they are with the ability to attend a university, have a roof over their heads, and clothes on their back.

Whoever said Arab pride and nationalism were dead has never seen a well-oiled machine quiet like this one.  The truth is, any day the shoe could be on the other foot—no pun intended—and it may be Syrians reaching out to Jordanians to supply clothes, food, or clean drinking water.  Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians may be the places they comes from, but at heart they have a greater common denominator as Arabs.

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