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Children's shoes sit on the doorstep of one Syrian family residing in Amman (Angelika Mendes/JRS).
Amman, 31 October 2012 – Ahmed* greeted us on a busy street that winds steeply uphill to his home in a quiet neighbourhood in Amman. We followed him upstairs to a simple three bedroom apartment. Long Arabic greetings are exchanged as we entered the living room. Except for some mattresses on the floor and a dresser, the room was bare.

It was the middle of winter, nine months ago, when Ahmed and his extended family – wife, daughter, parents, uncle and aunt – first arrived in Jordan. Life is hard here. But it was impossible at home.

Before fleeing Homs, Syria, Ahmed was arrested and detained for nearly 50 days in appalling conditions. Overcrowding meant detainees were forced to stand. As a result of his time in prison, Ahmed has spine-related problems that make any form of labour difficult.

Ahmed kept quiet with a determined look on his face as he chain-smokes, while his mother, Zeinah*, did the talking.

"It's very rare for someone in Syria to be released from prison, maybe one in 100 is released", explained Zeinah.

The family paid 2000 Jordanian dinar (2,170 euro) to bail him out.

"We sold everything, down to the last spoon, to find the money".

Before leaving Syria, Zeinah worked for the Syrian government for 30 years without problem, but once violence broke out she became fearful.

"I could sense things were changing and I was afraid of being arrested".

"There's not enough food in Syria, no bread. They destroyed everything, churches, houses… Two thousand people gathered to pray and demonstrate peacefully. They didn't want the fighting" Zeinah continued woefully.

Exile. Ahmed's wife serves us coffee in small gold decorated cups. She was seven months pregnant when they fled Homs on a bus to Amman.

"We came with nothing. For the first 50 days we lived here and there until we found this apartment.

Eleven members of the family, spanning three generations, live here together.

"It's better to eat dust here than to stay in Syria".

Zeinah's 14-year-old son works 12-hour shifts in a local falafel café for five dinars a day. He is the sole breadwinner since Ahmed and his father are unable to find work. The family relies on charity for the rest; clothes and medicines from a local church and neighbourhood clinic; food from an NGO; and uniforms and bags from the UN children's fund (UNICEF) so Zeinah's two younger daughters can attend school.

"They like it there. [But] it's so difficult to live here. Everything is so expensive".

The family pays 200 dinar a month in rent for their three bedroom apartment. Zeinah's husband needs special drugs for high blood pressure and a heart condition. With winter approaching, they are in dire need of blankets and heating oil.

Back in Syria both Ahmed and his father were drivers for tourist vans and had a good life. Her eldest son and daughter have remained in Syria.

"We try to keep in touch with them but the phone connection doesn't always work".

Until the dust of the prevailing conflict settles, the future of Zeinah's family and other Syrian refugees will remain uncertain.

Angelika Mendes, JRS International Fundraising Coordinator