In Jordan, Syrian volunteers make shopping a breeze for people with disabilities
20 December 2020
Meet Syrian refugee volunteers employed by the WFP in Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps to give persons with disabilities a helping hand while food shopping.
Helping people with disabilities was never a service Lara thought she would be able to provide. When she started three months ago, however, she realised how much this group needs support, especially in a refugee camp.
The 25-year-old refugee is one of eight incentive-based volunteers working in Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps to help people with disabilities access food easily at WFP-contracted supermarkets and bakery shops inside the camps.
All eight volunteers received training through the Norwegian Refugee Council, WFP’s implementing partner in the camps. They were trained to deal with different types of disabilities, learnt the basics of sign language and were given lessons on the etiquette of dealing with people with disabilities, as well as the elderly.
“At first, I was nervous, I wasn’t sure if they would accept my help,” says Lara. “When I see a disabled person walk into the supermarket, I politely ask if they need my help. If they prefer to shop on their own, I keep an eye out for them from afar.”
Three weeks into the job, she noticed that people were starting to warm up to her. “It makes me happy when people ask for me specifically,” says Lara proudly. “Giving a helping hand makes me feel like I’ve achieved something big.”
WFP provides Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan with a variety of fresh and healthy food options for people to buy in the blink of an eye. Close to 120,000 Syrian refugees living in both camps receive WFP monthly assistance through blockchain, which is integrated with iris-scanning technology at points of sale.
The system identifies and verifies users by linking to a biometric database that allows refugees to buy food without the need for electronic cards, pin codes or any other verification method.
Despite the user-friendly system, people with disabilities still need support accessing food. According to a recent study by Humanity and Inclusion, — an organization working to support people with disabilities and vulnerable populations — 30 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live with some form of disability. This is why the support WFP and the volunteers provide is so important.
“I have always helped people with disabilities on the streets, but I never thought I would work and earn money for doing something I am so passionate about,” says Deyaa, one of the refugee volunteers working alongside Lara in Zaatari Camp. “I help them pick out items from shelves, speed up the payment process, and carry their bags.”
In addition to helping people inside supermarkets and bakeries, WFP allocated a fast-track lane at the cashiers to reduce the waiting time for the elderly and people with disabilities, and installed ramps at entrances and exits to facilitate the access of people using wheelchairs.
“This job needs patience and a desire to help people,” adds Deyaa.
By providing this service, WFP gives people with disabilities a sense of normality and independence while also empowering them to make their own food choices.
Lara and Deyaa are both filled with joy upon hearing “thank-yous” and people’s good wishes for giving them a hand during their shopping. Now, more than ever, disabled refugees in camps feel welcomed, and can easily access the services they are entitled to.