Making Home Away: A New Digital Archive of Testimonies of Migration, Displacement and Resettlement

By: Dr. Helen Underhill
For many people around the world, recent months have seen an unprecedented redefinition our relationship with our homes, with millions spending time confined to home in a mass effort to slow the spread of Covid-19. Advocates and campaigners have rightly urged us to think about those who have no safe or reliable home to isolate themselves. Making Home Away centres on the homes that have been lost and found by refugees of the recent Syrian crisis. The emerging digital archive established by the Making Home Away project encourages the reexamination of the idea of ‘home’ as a crucible for rethinking attitudes towards displacement, migration, and resettlement at both public and policy levels.

Za’atari Refugee Camp: Life in the Desert

While the concept of the refugee camp has been criticized as a device to merely keep refugees alive, Za’atari’s organizations offer many programs to empower and educate residents—Katrine, a 16-year-old divorcee who advocates for girls to finish education before marriage; Miriam, a 19-year-old photojournalist-to-be who interviews others in the camp; and Abu Yaqub, a 50-year-old security guard who makes sure all thirteen of his children go to school

Syrian resilience is real, and for many right now, the only hope. These are the communities who can rebuild their country upon return or bring ingenuity to new places upon resettlement. In the meantime, organizations should acknowledge the semi-permanence of the “forever temporary” situation and continue their committed presence in residents’ lives. As long as Za’atari is dismissed as merely a refugee camp, all of its residents’ potential will be just that: potential.