Making new memories with Jessica Kahawaty and UNICEF

Grazia joins Jessica Kahawaty as she spends time with the refugee children of Jordan’s Az Zarqa camp
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Making new memories with Jessica Kahawaty and UNICEF

Nothing breaks my heart more than a child who is not living their childhood,” revealed model, presenter and philanthropist Jessica Kahawaty, as the run-up to Ramadan saw her visit the Az Zarqa refugee camp in Jordan with UNICEF. This was Jessica’s third humanitarian trip as a member of the UNICEF leadership circle – she first visited the Za’aatari camp in Jordan and later the Rohingya Emergency Refugee camp in Bangladesh, in 2017 – in which she interacts with children and families staying in the camps in order to experience the realities of life as a refugee. 

“I want to continue my education and become a doctor. Marriage can come second after my education,” 18-year-old Feda’a tells Jessica. 

The Az Zarqa camp sits just off the Syrian border, and Jessica spent four days, from 15-18 April, visiting schools and homes, talking to students and getting involved in activities such as painting, music and discussing their educational aspirations. Sadly, her trip highlighted the neglect these families face due to scarce basic resources, high numbers of children out of school, and rising social tension among the refugees due to the lack of health care and education, all of which UNICEF works to tackle. “Many women have gone back to Syria because the education they receive there – even during the war – is higher than what is being provided in the refugee camps in Jordan,” she observed. 

 The model joined children in creative activities like drawing and playing instruments. Students thrive most in this part of the day, when creativity allows them to express their emotions.

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable children. Jessica experienced the hope and positivity UNICEF helps bring to these children and their families through social-innovation projects. “The children require a level of education and support that is much more extensive than what they are receiving in the Jordanian refugee camps at the moment,” Jessica explained. “UNICEF is playing a big role in doing its best to provide them with a strong basic level of education.”  

Five-year-olds Mohammad Ahmad Mustafa and Ayoub Ali Alkhatib show off their skills to Jessica while practicing writing the alphabet.

On the importance of UNICEF’s work to improve conditions, especially for children, the human-rights-law graduate pointed out, “These are formative years in which they build a lifetime of habits, memories, personality traits and more. Some have only ever known a refugee camp since the Syrian war started in 2011.” 

“We met three groups of children who are working on initiatives to better the camp. These projects are a first of their kind, which made them truly inspiring” Jessica told us.

Images: Supplied