welcome to nowhere
Twelve year old Omar and his brothers and sisters were born and raised in the beautiful city of Bosra in Syria. Omar doesn't care about politics. He just wants to grow up to become a successful businessman who will take the world by storm. but his older brother Musa is desperate to play his part in the struggle against oppression while their sister, Eman, has only one ambition - to finish her education and become a teacher.
Street demonstrations and slogans are followed by government reprisals, and the whole of Syria is soon engulfed in a cruel civil war. When the bombs start falling, Omar and his family have no choice but to flee their homes with only what they can carry. The shadow of war follows them, until at last they have no choice but to flee their homeland altogether.
Where do you go when you can't go home?
Macmillan Children's Books who will be donating fifty pence per hardback copy of Welcome to Nowhere sold in the UK ahead of the paperback publication in July 2017 to The Mandala Trust [Registered Charity No. 1096861], who support the work of The Hope School and other educational projects for Syrian refugees in Jordan. Find out more about The Hope School and how you can help here.
How I came to write Welcome to Nowhere
In November 2015, I was privileged to spend a couple of weeks in Jordan, doing some workshops with teachers and youth trainers in Za'atari and Azraq camps, up near the Syrian border, where hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to flee from their homes in Syria are now living. I received a wonderfully warm welcome, and we all worked enthusiastically together on stories for young people and how to create and express them. I do hope they carry on writing! Thanks to the Norwegian Refugee Council who facilitated my visit.
It's tough in the camps. In the summer the weather is blisteringly hot, and in the winter it's bitterly cold. In Azraq particularly, where there is no electricity, people are really suffering. It's a scandal that the international community are not fulfilling their pledges to support those who have lost their homes and livelihoods through no fault of their own.
For all the hardships of the camps, the refugees who live there are in some ways the lucky ones. Eighty per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live outside the camps, managing from day to day to keep body and soul together with extreme difficulty. Through friends, I met some of these people, who, exiled from their homes, are making the best of their incredibly hard situation with courage and hope for the future.
I was filled with admiration for the resourcefulness and patience of the Syrian people who are managing somehow to look after their families, to care for each other, and retain their spirit and dignity in such tough circumstances.
The characters in Welcome to Nowhere are not based on particular individuals, but their story is one that I heard again and again in the camps and outside. It's a story of an ordinary family pushed into extraordinary situations, and how they live up to the challenge.
Here I am with teacher trainer and translator Muna and some of the workshop participants in Azraq camp. Thanks for your welcome, Omar, Ibrahim, Musa, Ali, Ahmed, Klef, and everyone else, not to mention the ladies in our other Azraq workshop.