The Black Hole Travels: Life in Za'atari Camp / by Calvin Seah

Images by Nurul Mustapha - - Words by Syafiqah J.

The spirit of an artist and the heart of a humanitarian, our very own Accountant, Nurul Mustapha, spent four days at a Syrian refugee camp which hosts over 80 000 inhabitants. She shares her experience and insights of what it truly felt like to be on site a refugee camp. 

Share with us a summary of what went down during the trip and how you got involved in it?

I was actively volunteering under a non-profit organisation, That's Us SG, when I found out about this trip. They were organising a Humanitarian Overseas Expedition. I signed up, raised funds, and finally set foot on the biggest refugee camp called Za'atari located in Jordan. The first few days at the camp site was truly depressing. Witnessing the refugee camp first hand as compared to just pictures portrayed by the media was an entirely different feeling. It was challenging but I braced myself to make the best out of this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Growing up in Singapore, I was so used to the warm sunny climate thus my body wasn't adaptable to the harsh cold weather. It was too painful to smile and it even hurts to talk. I was told that it will be much colder in the months ahead. Some of the refugees were covered in just a pullover and long pants. How could I even complain about my discomfort when I was decked in an insulated jacket with a furry hoodie?

I spent the next few days interacting with the refugee children and listening to their stories. I doubt I can ever erase the memories of hearing the pain in their voice and seeing the sadness in their eyes. Majority of the children were separated from their parents (thus have to learn living independently at such a young age). One of them told me that she missed her father and could not wait to be reunited with him in Heaven. Another longed to be back in her hometown.  The Principal of the orphanage told us that the shelter could only be halfway built as they ran out of funds. Oh, how I wish there was more that I could do to help. 

The experience was eye-opening, that's for sure. It left me with a broken heart. Yet I also left the camp with a greater purpose in life. 

Biggest takeaway you've gained?

To be grateful for the simplest things in life. It is as easy as being grateful for your eyesight- for the ability to see the beauty of God's creation everyday. In my case I am extra grateful for being able to see clearly without the need for glasses. 

My childhood days consist of reminders from my dad. One of the things he consistently emphasised was not to waste food as they are many people out there who struggle to find food for survival. Cliche but I finally understood the significance of his reminders when I saw such a situation with my very own eyes.

It was not just about wastage of food but a constant reminder that something of such necessity comes easily to many of us but not others, thus to always be grateful of the food that fills our stomach.


To be grateful for the simplest things in life. It is as easy as being grateful for your eyesight- for the ability to see the beauty of God's creations everyday.


We know you love giving back. Any trips or projects coming up?

No upcoming trips at the moment , unfortunately. Project-wise, my friend and I are planning to organise a weekly visit to a number of elderly's houses to help spring clean. We intend to invite youths to take part in this initiative. Weird but I actually enjoy cleaning and organising (almost as much as Monica from F.R.I.E.N.D.S except that I don't have 11 categories just for towels!). 


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