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The Refugee Project

12 Bags Full

Caitlin McMullen, Christine Byllaardt, Tara Smith and Derek Schlennstedt

Walking through the bamboo crops and gravel paths of the Hasa Valley, faint voices and sounds of streaming water can be heard.

We turned a corner and crossed a stream where we found a woman crouched down on the riverbank, washing wool.

She was kneading the wool in the shallow water, creating clouds of grey mud, which floated away as she worked. On the bank were several white bags, each full with matted fleece.

Fatima Al Hamid told us she comes to the river to wash her wool one day a year and that she had twelve bags with her, all collected from the farm where she works.  

She has been staying in the Burbeyta region of southern Jordan for a year. She lives with her five children in a tent, 35 kilometres north from Hasa valley.

The Syrian-born refugee has lived in Jordan for six years, after fleeing the northern Syrian city of Hama with her husband and children.

One year after moving to Jordan, Fatima’s husband passed away following complications after an operation.

As Fatima said, her husband’s death “has been difficult, it’s only me to look after the kids.”

The United Nations-funded farm where she works produces pears, tomatoes, potatoes and watermelon. She also shepherds sheep and makes goats’ cheese.

The wool is being used for mattresses and clothing.

“I’ve learnt to wash wool since living with [the villagers]. They shear the sheep and then give it to us. We wash it, and make mattresses for the children to sleep on, instead of sleeping on the floor.”