Technology’s role for the refugees of Za’atari

The Syrian refugees living in Za’atari have had to leave behind their entire existence – homes, family, friends, jobs, school. Many have also had to leave the luxuries that the majority of the world knows today – internet access allowing them to make connections with others and feel a sense of connection with the world beyond their current physical location.

Technology can allow people from all walks of life and all parts of the world to create connections with one another in a virtual instant. In a tent next to the United Nations General Assembly building in New York City a large, gold shipping container was placed to serve as a Portal. “The idea behind Portals is to get members of the public to enter a space—usually shipping containers painted gold—and have a one-on-one 20-minute conversation with someone from another country they would otherwise never meet”.

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The ability of Portals to channel “the empathy-building power of facing another human being” is particularly important. We are faced with images, sometimes bombarded with particularly emotive ones. However, I fear that as a way of self-preservation or perhaps purely from a lack of caring, many of us are able to compartmentalise these things and busy ourselves with our own hectic lives.

However, how easy would it be to do the same after you have actually had a conversation with the person from that image? When you knew their name? Some of their story? Their hopes. Their struggles. Their “human-ness”.

Technology has a lot to offer for the refugees of Za’atari, and my hope is that perhaps it would serve a dual purpose – to broaden the scope of pathways for Syrian refugees to pursue connections and opportunities, and to deepen the understanding and involvement of citizens around the world who may be able to contribute to making a refugee’s goals into reality.