Relearning fatherhood as a refugee

RefugeesJordan

As a good father, Samir did everything he could to protect his young children when conflict reached their Syrian village. But years of fleeing violence and living as a refugee took a significant toll on him and his family.

In 2011, Samir* was living a happy and simple life with his wife and four young children. But that was the year everything changed. That was the year their village in Syria became a battleground.

The sound of bombs, killings in the streets, and four young children to protect. Fearing for their lives, Samir and his wife fled and left everything behind.

Samir led his family to another village in Syria. And then another. But wherever they went, the fighting followed close behind.

Finally, after moving from place to place for over a year, the family were forced to leave their home country and cross over the border to a refugee camp in Jordan.

At last they were safe. But their problems didn’t end here. The family had been traumatised by what they had seen and experienced, and now they had to rebuild a life in a foreign country as refugees.

No hope for the future
Years passed in the refugee camp, and Samir saw little hope for the future. Back in Syria, he had been a construction worker. He took pride in his work and enjoyed working with his hands and seeing buildings take shape. Now, Samir had no job and no way to provide for his children. Sitting at home all day, he felt increasingly frustrated.

Feeling overwhelmed with stress and weighed down with depression, he became withdrawn from those around him and found comfort in chain smoking throughout the day.

Samir’s misery started to impact the whole family. ‘I was not a gentle man around my wife and children,’ Samir admits.

Inspired by joy
One day, a man from the refugee camp invited Samir to a men’s exercise group. Samir reluctantly agreed, nervous to go somewhere new with people he didn’t know.

But what Samir found at the group shocked him; men were laughing and joking together, just like his friends back in Syria. Samir noticed that the people around him were full of hope and joy, even though many of the men were also refugees and had been through trauma. This started to give him hope that life could get better.

The group was run by one of Tearfund’s partners, with the aim of helping unemployed men like Samir overcome trauma and challenges and build new life skills. Before physical exercise, the coach would lead them in a time of discussion about overcoming personal challenges.

The men were vulnerable with each other and shared their struggles and weaknesses. Over time, Samir started to open up too. He found that, for the first time in a long time, he had friends who would encourage and support him as he faced life’s challenges.

A provider of love
Samir started to work on changing his mindset and habits. The group helped him to see that even if he cannot work and provide for his family in the ways he used to, he can still be a good father by caring for his children and spending quality time with them.

Samir started to reconnect with his family, joining in with their daily activities and making healthy meals with recipes he learned to cook at his men’s group. He started offering his children what he can give freely – attention and affection.

Joy has returned to Samir and his household. Rather than feeling like a failure, he now knows that he plays a vital role in his family. ‘I may not make much money, but I have become a provider of love and empathy for my family,’ Samir says.

PLEASE PRAY

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being the perfect example of a father to all of us. Today, on Father’s Day, we pray for fathers all around the world.

We lift up fathers like Samir who may be facing overwhelming challenges and feeling unsure where to turn. We pray that all fathers will find strength and hope in you, whatever their circumstances. We ask that they will have a deeper revelation of your love for them, and that in turn they will pour that love out on their families.

We also pray for those without an earthly father. Please draw near to them, comfort them and help them know your unconditional love for them.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

Agnes McGrane