Farhana laughs out loud in a toothless grin. Her name means happiness and she is the embodiment of good humour, making us all laugh despite the language barrier. This grandmother lives with her fifty children and grandchildren, that is they all live in Talbieh Refugee Camp.
Talbieh is the smallest Palestinian Refugee Camp. It was set up as an emergency refugee camp in 1968 to house five thousand Palestinians, and over time makeshift tents were replaced by concrete structures with narrow alleyways. Today seven thousand refugees and their descendants call it home.
The camp is situated a half hour drive outside Amman, or a bit longer by public transport (which involves taking 2 buses but is way much cheaper). Shops on the main street sell live poultry, photo printing services, electronics and a variety of other things. It’s like a small concrete village, very hot and with few green spaces. More than 60% of the population is aged below twenty five and it’s normal to see kids all playing together outdoors unsupervised.
We were headed to the Woman’s Programme Centre where we were going to run three programmes over consecutive days. That is where we met Farhana and many other lovely ladies who we spent a few hours with.
The idea behind the workshop was to provide some sort of relief to the women of the camp. Unemployment and poverty are very high there, and many women end up being divorced by their husbands, with family units under a lot of strain.
These Palestinian women are amazing! They have such warm hearts. About 15 to 20 came into our room, sat on the chairs we had set out for them, relaxed, showed their faces and had a great time!
As with all our programmes we started out playing a few games to get to know each other and break the ice. Farhana, Amal, Nancy, Kiten, Azziza, these are a few of the women we had with us, who picked up the games super fast, laughed a great deal and bonded with us.
When it came to meditation, we explained how it was a very good means of finding inner peace, balance and stress management in daily life. We did a few exercises and by the end these women were feeling so much better. Farhana with a big smile and wide arm gestures said it was as if all her worries had been blown away, Fatima said she could not think at all, even if she made an effort. Another lady mentioned she had even forgotten her children, she was soo relaxed.
We don’t want to just provide instant relief and leave it at that. We want them to be able to meditate at home by themselves so that whenever they are facing a stressful situation, they have the tools to cope. These ladies came back the next days and we did more meditation workshops with them. It was a real joy to meet them again, knowing each other’s names and stories. Nancy invited us home today, and cooked a feast at lunch for us and just showered us with soo much love. It’s so humbling. These women lead simple lives in simple conditions and have the biggest hearts.
Hopefully we have taught them something useful that they can use for the rest of their lives.
The following addition was contributed by Omar …
We have been to Talbieh camp for the last three days we found some very nice and sweet people with whom we conducted meditation workshops .
We had sessions of meditations and workshops separately with men and women. Ladies, in the morning and men in the afternoon.
The programs went smoothly most of the time except from some energetic young boys who had something to say; but they calm down in the end after they went through the meditation process.
The last program we had was the best of all, in spite of being just the two of us leading the seminar, we had a lot of help from the people who came to the previous workshops, they really helped especially with the new young children who came.