It's late on a Friday night and your alone at home with nothing but a fluffy blanket and a rerun of Seinfeld to keep you company. You're hungry, but your so undressed and dishevelled you're almost embarrassed to be seen in the mirror of your own house. The answer: pizza.
What could be described as the pinnacle of civilisation, the cheese and flavour laden pizza has been giving joy to the world since 997 AD. Some even see it as a self-evident human right (okay, a little over exaggeration). The point is, pizza is something no human being should go without - they could, but they shouldn't.
And Abu Mahmoud, resident Syrian refugee at Jordan's Zaatari camp couldn't have agreed more. The ex-electrician fled Syria during the civil war which has been dragging on since May 2011 when Syrian security forces began killing bystanders as well as protestors against the authoritarian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Once at the camp, Mahmoud had some spare money and, after teaming up with an experienced pizza and Syrian pastry chef, decided to bring the beloved goods to the good people of Zaatari. Thus the Pizzeria of Peace was born. Besides being a restaurant, Pizzeria of Peace has a bike delivery service, which allows to them to cater to the estimated 83, 819 people who call the makeshift refugee city their home.
Naserddine Touaibia, a Public Information and Mass Communication Associate for UNHCR, said "the amount of resilience in refugees is huge", adding that, "they are not the type of people that would sit around, cross their hands and wait for you to do something for them. They are actually very creative and very active." According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 2000 shops have sprung up in Zaatari, all of which are owned by refugees, who in turn benefit from the businesses - the camp's economy now brings in more than $10 million a month. "Both the host community and the refugees are benefiting from this economy," Touaibia observed.
At the start of the civil war, when Zataari first opened, refugees were supplied with food, clothing and other essential goods by various aid groups - however these days the economy has shifted to a debit card system. Families are given a certain amount of money every month based on the number of people in their household. They may then use that money however they please - buying things from the two supermarkets in the camp run by the World Food Programme (WFP) as well as from shops run by other refugees. "We are giving them more freedom and this will guarantee for us that we can keep their dignity," said Touaibia. "We also give them a sense of normalcy."
In other refugee camps around the world similar creative and entrepreneurial pursuits are cropping up. In the 30,000-strong Western Sahara Dakhla refugee camp, the FiSahara film festival - dubbed 'the world's remotest film festival' - was started up about a decade ago. Their camp now even has its own film school, refugees annually contributing their own works to the festival.