How Age International are helping older Syrian refugees

Moustafa and his wife in Syria.

What happens when an older Syrian refugee receives a cash transfer? How do they spend it? What impact does it have on their life? Moustafa, a 62 year old grandfather – who fled from Homs to Jordan – shares his story.

Many of the refugees that have fled from Syria lived lives like you or I before the war. Moustafa was a history and geography teacher for 35 years. He also worked at the cultural centre in Homs, published books on history and contributed to cultural publications.

‘The first thing I used to do, before teaching the students geography, was to teach them how to behave with others and how to become adults,’ he recalls.

‘That’s something I wanted to give them, it was important to help them along the road to maturity.’

Never in my wildest dreams did I think this situation could turn into a war

For many, war wasn’t an inevitability – it didn’t even seem like a reality when it began.

‘We didn’t understand what was happening. We were dumbfounded – really stunned. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this situation could turn into a war,’ Moustafa explains.

Bombed from dawn till dusk


Unfortunately, the war was – and still is – real. In 2011 a bomb hit Moustafa’s house, spraying his left ankle with shrapnel. He fainted and was transported to a hospital in Homs, where he was given very basic treatment. Even so when he returned home, Moustafa still didn’t think the fighting would last much longer.

‘One day, we were bombed from dawn till dusk, for more than 12 hours. That’s when we decided to flee.’

Moustafa and his family have not been home since; an acquaintance brought them a few of their possessions, including some books published by Moustafa.

Luxury is a small pot of honey

Now, Moustafa has used all of his life savings to reach Jordan with his family. He has nothing left and he can’t find work or claim a pension. A cash transfer from our local partner is the only thing keeping Moustafa and his family going.

When Moustafa receives the cash from the partner, he pays the rent, water and electricity bills.

But the transfer does more than that. It reminds Moustafa of the man he was before he fled – the able bodied academic. By giving Moustafa the choice to spend the money on exactly what he needs, rather than just giving him a hand-out, he regains some of his independence and dignity.

As well as rent and utilities, Moustafa can pay for medication and – an exceptional treat – a very small pot of honey.

‘You are showing consideration for everyone’s stories’

Moustafa thanks us for our assistance, which he never imagined he would need so badly, and for the attention paid to him and his family:

“It’s vital for us. My story is just one of many. By being here today, you are showing consideration for everyone’s stories, for the lives of all Syrian victims of this war – a war we don’t even understand.”

‘It’s not one generation that’s being sacrificed at this very moment, it’s several’

Moustafa’s dream now is to re-connect with the world and have something like a normal life again: “It’s like I’ve got a huge gap in my life: I can’t move around, so I don’t have much of a social life.”

Creativity and peace of mind is what Moustafa wants for his grandson, Mohammed, who he looks at lovingly, and for all of the children of Syria. But as Moustafa knows, this will take time – a long time.

‘It’s not one generation that’s being sacrificed at this very moment, it’s several.’

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