UNRWA training courses provide a glimmer of hope in Yarmouk

14 June 2023
Palestine Refugee graduates of the vocational training courses in Yarmouk camp pose for a photograph on their graduation day. © 2023 UNRWA Photo

For Palestine Refugees who returned to Yarmouk camp in Damascus, 21 May was a special day. It marked a significant milestone for 30 accomplished women graduates who celebrated their achievements with their families, with lots of love and happiness.  

Manal and Niveen were among those women who successfully completed hairdressing and food preservation courses at the improvised community centre, overcoming every adversity upon their return to the devastated camp. They learnt professional skills in hair, nails and make-up and methods of food preservation for different jams and pickles, and drying, freezing, and canning.  The skills they acquired will help these women with any income generation activities that will, in turn, help them support their families amid the continuing crisis and spiraling socio-economic conditions in Syria. 



Manal (left) and Niveen (right) proudly present their graduation certificates at a ceremony in Yarmouk camp in Damascus. © 2023 UNRWA Photo 

Before the crisis started in 2011, Yarmouk was a vibrant home to almost 30 per cent of the Palestine Refugee population in Syria, bustling with street life, buses and shops.  Like thousands of Palestine Refugees in Yarmouk, Manal and Niveen left the camp when hostilities escalated. They returned to Yarmouk after years of multiple displacement and are now fighting to put their lives back together. When they first returned to Yarmouk and noted all the devastation, they realized how challenging I would be to adapt to a new life in this environment.  

A mother of two, Manal and her husband returned to the camp six months ago because they could no longer afford to rent an apartment where they were. “We could barely cover our basic necessities. The rental prices had risen steeply and more jumps were expected, " she said. Her husband works as a taxi driver. They struggle to survive with their children "Thanks to UNRWA, I enjoyed the food preserving courseThey gave me all the information I need to get started in canning and preserving foods. After the training, I realized that I myself can do something to earn money If we work hard, we can make things happen, Manal noted. 

Expressing her joy of returning to the camp last year, Niveen said: "I am excited that my husband and I returned to the camp last year, although some of the streets were piled with rubble. We managed to rehabilitate our house.  Returning to our house will alleviate the financial strain.”     

Niveen chose to enroll in the hairdressing course offered at the improvised Yarmouk Community Centre.  “I love hairdressing. It’s a passion for me. We learnt lots of new things that make us unlock our creativity and really build our confidence," said Niveen. 

Congratulating the graduates, Mr. Mahmoud Abu Khraish, GAPAR Head of Yarmouk Directorate, said: “We are happy of the participants’ accomplishment.  GAPAR and UNRWA work closely to support the Agency's rehabilitation projects for Palestine Refugees in the camp.” 

The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, Mr. Amanya Michale-Ebye, encouraged the participants to take immense pride in their achievements, recognizing the determination and resolve it took to arrive at this day. He said, "One can barely believe that hope and life have been restored to Yarmouk camp, which is very close to my heart.  When I first visited the camp in 2018, I did not believe that we would be able to do anything.  But thanks to the support of the Syrian government, GAPAR, donors, Palestine Refugees and UNRWA staff, the rehabilitation of an UNRWA school, health centre and offices is running at full speed.” He continued, “We will continue to mobilize resources to rebuild our installations in Yarmouk and Ein el Tal in Aleppo.  In the meantime, I will continue to advocate for Palestine Refugees."  

Palestine Refugees have been permitted to return to Yarmouk camp since the end of 2020, subject to the government's approval. Some 4500 individuals [1300 families] are estimated to have returned as of May 2023.  To meet the growing needs of returning refugees, UNRWA resumed some of its services, including developing social activities in the camp such as legal awareness sessions, a club for the elderly, activities for adolescents and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) risk education sessions.