14 July 2010
Vulnerable older people in Jerash camp have found a home from home at a dedicated soup kitchen for elderly refugees. Every Saturday, around 60 women and 20 men meet to talk and eat their meals together.
Jerash, in Jordan, is home to refugees who left Gaza as a result of the 1967 war. The soup kitchen is the only place the camp’s elderly refugees can receive extra care and attention.
“The idea of the project is very simple. I thought about it when I was participating in a housing survey conducted in Jerash camp,” said Jundya Al-Duhini, the project supervisor of the elderly programme.
Through a network of 25 volunteers and with the financial support from Shams Jordanie, a French women’s NGO, the camp’s UNRWA-affiliated Women’s Programme Centre started the soup kitchen.
Shams Jordanie renovated a large kitchen and hall in the centre for elderly refugees to gather and socialise. The NGO will also renovate a play yard for children in the camp.
Volunteers visit and deliver meals to those who can’t come to the centre themselves. The young messengers help the elderly people in their homes and shop for them.
The volunteers and Jundya, known to the local community as the “mother of the elderly”, organise recreational trips for older refugees, and try to secure their needs through contributions from the local community.
Jundya said that those selected for the programme include older refugees who live alone, people from families living in dire economic conditions and others who need special care.
Mohannad has been volunteering since early 2003. He was only eight when Jundya began sending him to elderly refugees’ homes to deliver meals. Jundya said: “Till this moment, Mohannad is still passionate about his voluntary involvement. He never misses a gathering, home visit or a trip for the elderly.”
Wafa, 20, has been with the programme for four years. She said: “We started the project on our own. In 2008, Shams Jordanie provided us with funds, and we managed to expand the outreach to target more elderly people in need of our services.”
Wafa added: “I’m studying physics in the university now, but never miss Saturday gatherings in the centre. To me they are like surrogate grandparents. My heart fills with joy when I manage to bring love and care to their lives. By being exposed to the elderly experiences and knowledge, I have become a better person.”