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When Samer met Sama

20 May 2021, Impact of Our Work

They found love in a seemingly hopeless place

Samer* and his family fled violence in Syria and arrived at the Za’atari refugee camp in 2013 when he was just 16. It took many years, but he found the loves of his life there – his wife Sama, and a passion for photography.      
When he arrived, Samer was confused, angry and homesick. He had witnessed unimaginable horror during the war and found it hard to find solace in the camp. “I am angry at the world. They don’t care about me. About my future,” he said back then.

The only place he enjoyed was the activity centre set up by Save the Children where he and his friends would lift weights and release the tension and trauma they felt.
“That gives us an outlet for our emotions and frustrations,” said Samer. “The coach of the gym is my role model. He used to be the national bodybuilding champion in Syria. He participated in the Olympics and World Championships. He also lost everything because of the war. I want to be just as disciplined and strong as he is.”

Samer was a confused and broken 16-year-old child who found comfort lifting weights at the gym.
Photo: Chris de Bode / Save the Children

A new skill and a new love

Then in 2016, Samer attended a photography course Save the Children was running in the camp for youth. What he found there would change his life forever.
Through Save the Children, I received several courses on photography, and this changed my life. Photography helped me to overcome negativity. I had no ambition before that, but I fell in love with photography after that and found myself through the camera lens.


Samer found joy and purpose behind the camera.
Photo: Mo'awia Bajis / Save the Children

It was also through the course he met his now-wife Sama, who is also an accomplished filmmaker. In 2015, her documentary of her life and journey to Za’atari was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Now they have a three-year-old daughter and another child on the way. Samer couldn’t be prouder of the life he’s built.

 “I wake up every morning and have coffee with my wife. We talk and I share my thoughts with her. I go outside after that and see family and friends. Sometimes I go out and take photos and videos of different people, and then I return for lunch and then go outside again until evening time. I live my life each day at a time.”
He’s developed his photography, assisting on projects. But he also wants to use it to change the world. “When I was interviewed by Save the Children in 2016, I said I wanted to be the strongest man in the world because I used to exercise in the gym. Now, I want to be a man with a strong personality and an intellect that can help other people to change their perspective around refugees. I want to send my messages to people through a strong lens,” he says.

Creating change for children

Having lived through the war, Samer is now keen to see an end to it. “My message to the world is to stop war everywhere. Vulnerable people like us are the most affected in these wars and their dreams are shattered. Children’s lives in any crises are destroyed.  Children do not deserve to live under shelling and get injured.”

*Names have been changed to protect identities.


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