‘Curtains hung to cover the holes in the walls and their dignity’ - Letchworth Salvation Army man on Syrian refugee visit

Major Barrie Sampson from the Salvation Army Letchworth Corps

Major Barrie Sampson from the Salvation Army Letchworth Corps - Credit: Archant

A Salvation Army Major has described his experiences helping the refugees of war-torn Syria.

Major Barrie Sampson, who leads the Salvation Army Letchworth Corps, returned to the UK earlier this month after spent=ding five weeks with his wife Maria in Jordan working with Syrian refugees displaced in the region.

It is estimated that there are currently 700,000 to 750,000 Syrian refugees in the country, with 1,000 people per day crossing the border.

Working from the capital Amman with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which has partnered up with the Salvation Army, the team were able to identify 1,000 families in need and supply them with items such as heaters, clothes and blankets.

Major Sampson said: “In the scheme of things it is a drop in the ocean. We heard the same stories, the Syrians just do not know when they will go back or if they will ever go back. The Jordanians are a very hospitable people but they are really feeling the pinch because they are trying to feed their own, as well as the influx of refugees.”

Major Sampson assisted relief projects in Irbid and Al Mafraq, which has seen a large number of Syrians come into the city seeking refuge.

“There are 136,000 refugees in the main camp which accounts for about 30%,” he said.

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“The rest are bypassing the camps, going into the communities and settling there. Some are working illegally to try to provide for themselves that in turn takes work away from the Jordanians, many who are now finding it hard to maintain a decent living standard.

“Many of the refugees are living in far from ideal situations due to the crisis; prices are high, forced up by the increased numbers now living there.

“We met a family of 14 who were living in a run-down building, carpets and curtains hung to cover the holes in the walls and their dignity. There was a hole in the ceiling of the room in which they slept and a curtain separated the sleeping area from the toilet. The youngest member of the family, a boy of about eight, lost both parents as a result of the war. There is no possibility for him to continue his education as there is currently no space in the schools. When you see people in these situations, it certainly puts life in perspective.”

The team has already identified a further need to supply heaters, blankets, warm clothing and hygiene kits over the winter and have proposals in place to supply two schools with extra classrooms to accommodate some of the 250 Syrian children who are unable to attend a school.

For further details on the Salvation Army’s projects email barrie.sampson@salvationarmy.org.uk

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