Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan – The war in Syria is now in its eighth year and Syrians across the world have become accustomed to a different life.
Using animations to illustrate their dreams, Dreaming in Zaatari: Stories After Syria, an immersive virtual-reality film, takes viewers into the lives of three Syrian teenagers in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp.
“I was 11 when I came to this refugee camp. That’s when the war started in Syria,” said Najat, a Syrian teenager. “My dream is to become a pharmacist.”
The 16-year-old knew just enough English to declare her dreams.
She has lived in the camp all her teenage life, witnessing its transformation into a city-like settlement.
“In the beginning, the camp was made of just tents. But we improved it. Anyone who looks at the camp now can say that we don’t lack anything,” she said.
Around 80,000 Syrians live in Zaatari refugee camp, which was established in July 2012 to shelter those fleeing Syria into Jordan.
Around 55 percent of the population here is under 18. Many, like Najat, will remember most of their childhood spent on the dusty streets of Zaatari.
For Mahmoud, 15, as well, Syria is a distant memory.
“My father said we lived a good life in Syria, a normal one. I wish I could remember it.”
I want our homeland to be free, to go back to the way it was
He spoke of his dreams to become a famous singer, like his childhood heroes Lebanese legend Fairuz or Umm Kalthoum from Egypt.
“If I became famous, I wouldn’t be greedy. I’d buy a house or a car for myself. But then I would help the poor, people like me, living in refugee camps.
“I want our homeland to be free, to go back to the way it was.”
Like Mahmoud, most of the teenagers we spoke to articulate their dreams through nostalgia, despite the new lives they have grown to know.
“I wish to go back to Syria to rebuild it. My greatest wish is to finish my studies there,” 16-year-old Tabarak said.
For Najat, her dream is not just to become a pharmacist, but rather “give everything [she has] to making Syria better”.
Hear more of their dreams here.
Made by Contrast VR – Al Jazeera’s immersive media studio – in partnership with World Vision, the film is narrated by actor Liam Cunningham, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and UN High-Level Commissioner Alaa Murabit. The film is directed by Contrast VR’s Editorial Lead Zahra Rasool.