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workers at the paving project

Armed with determination and high spirit, the roads in the IDP camps are finally paved by their residents 

When speaking about Syrian IDPs, we are faced with endless episodes of suffering and hardship, starting with the horrors of bombing and shelling, to being forced to leave everything behind and escape to another level of misery in the displacement camps. 

Many random camps in northern Syria were hastily established by the IDPs themselves in the hope of securing a roof over their heads, even if this roof was nothing more than a worn-out cloth that does not protect from cold and rain in the winter, nor heat and insects in the summer. The winter is notoriously hard with the flooding and mud accumulation that makes the movement of the residents a very unpleasant undertaking.

These displaced people lost everything: their homes, their jobs, their sources of income, and their livelihood, whether it was an agricultural land or a craft that helps to bring food to the table with some level of dignity. It is true that man shall not live by bread alone, but when it is this hard to secure bread, it becomes more precious than gold.

Understanding these conditions, Binaa for Development launched a series of projects and initiatives in an attempt to improve the living conditions in the IDP camps of northern Syria. Through its cash-for-work initiative, the organization wanted to utilize the human resources in the camps and empower its residents to participate in these projects through a process of learning and development.  

The road paving project is one of the most important cash-for-work projects that were implemented by Binaa in three of these camps. The paving works of Bahorata camp in the Aleppo countryside started in October 2020 and ended in April 2021 with the participation of 18 workers from the camp’s residents. Additionally, the works at Al-Amal and Al-Jaba camps in the Idlib countryside ended in June 2021 with the participation of 107 IDP workers. 

The workers in the paving project were selected from those who had previous experience in similar fields. The candidates go through a training period to learn the basics and get familiar with tools and materials. An area of ​​4100 m² and 4600 m² was paved in Al-Amal camp, while to a total paved area in Al-Jabal camp reached ​​14,000 m².

Ahmed is an IDP from Maar Debsah in Saraqib countryside, and one of the beneficiaries of the paving project in Al-Jabal camp. Before his displacement, Ahmed used to do tiling work and his tools were among the few possessions he dearly kept with him when he left his village, hoping they would help him to make a living at some point. This is why he was happy to hear about the work opportunity in this field and did not hesitate to submit the application, which was approved by the organization. He says:

"Because of the displacement, our conditions have severely deteriorated, and the paving work is close to what I used to do and it’s not too different from laying tiles. The work will give me the additional experience that I need."

 Similarly, Muhammad, from Maarat al-Numan in Idlib governorate, was among the thousands of IDPs who settled in Al-Jabal camp. Mohammad escaped with his family of 12 people when the bombardment intensified on his village, and like many others, he had to leave everything behind to save his family.

Back in his village, Muhammad used to work in stone and block construction and that’s why he was among those selected to work on the paving project when one of his relatives told him about the opening:

I submitted two applications  the first was an application to move to this camp, and the second was to join the paving project. Thankfully, both were approved… I desperately needed this job to secure an income for my large family. Also, this work is close to my previous job, as I was a construction master.”

Like most projects implemented by Binaa, the paving project aims to improve the living conditions and bring more vital services to the camp, in addition to alleviating the suffering that residents used to face each winter. Ahmed said: 

"The paving project will alleviate a lot of suffering. In winter it rains heavily. It rains strangely here in this area... water accumulates on the roads and prevents the children from getting out, and when it floods into the tent, everything in it is ruined."

Certainly the conditions have changed In the camp after this project as Muhammad describes: We could not get out of the tent because of the mud, even the organization that used to bring us water did not accept to come to this camp because of the muddy roads, but now, praise be to God, everything is better and all services are available.” 

عمال الرصف في بناء يرصفون مخيمهم

Hope to return home and that displacement is temporary is what eases some of the burdens that the residents bear. For Ahmed, this means that when he returns to his village he will be able to reap the fruits of the experiences he obtained from training and working in the paving project: “If one day, God willing, we will return to our homes, and we will certainly do someday, there will be a lot of work in the tiling field and this means we will have a source of livelihood because a lot of the houses will need to be repaired.”  

Even though participants had previous experience in construction and tile work, they received a training course on the use of tools and equipment in addition to training on safety and work guidelines. Muhammad adds: 

With this opportunity, we gained new experience in this field and learned new skills on how to deal with stones and how to use them for paving. This will surely be useful in the future, and we should continue to learn throughout their lives.” 

Binaas initiatives have so far succeeded in securing several basic needs and services for tens of thousands of IDPs in the northern Syria camps. Among them were the distribution of bread, clean drinking water, and heating fuel, in addition to providing cleaning services, garbage collection, and paving the roads. 

Keeping the flame of hope in the hearts of those residents is what Binaa hopes to achieve- a hope nourished by the many efforts to alleviate the great suffering they were subjected to, and a bigger hope that they will someday be able to go back to their homes and villages with dignity and pride.