The whole world is busy with the refugee crisis. But it seems everybody talks about the refugees. And hardly anybody talks with the refugees. That is why this book is not about numbers, figures, politics or hear-say. We tell the stories of people like you and me. Without judgement. No right or wrong. No good or bad.

Most Syrian refugees we met in Lebanon and Jordan have but one overriding desire: to get back home. Back to their beloved home country, their village, their neighbours. People talk endlessly about the mountains they love, the river that flows past their home, the bread from the baker in their street and the olives from their own trees. Oh, Syria…

But now their lives are standing still. They’re not allowed to work, the children often don’t go to school and the future is far from clear. Anyone who lives in a large, official camp like Al-Za’atari in Jordan is basically imprisoned. There are armoured army vehicles all around the camp to prevent the refugees from leaving without permission.

Yet the stories we share in this book are not about caged people in need of help. They are about willpower and the ability to cope. Because that is what touches us time and again: people’s ability to make something of their lives, even when the world around them is collapsing. Hope, trust and warmth – to our great surprise – are what we most often feel when we talk to refugees. Their stories are heartbreaking – yet they are always about strength, faith, dignity and love.

That is the story we want to share. 

'Anything out of nothing' is designed by award-winning bureau Koning Harder. Each copy of this beautifully bound book is hand finished by the binder. The daring design also allows the reader to experience just a tiny bit of the the confusion that characterises the life of any human being whose life is completely turned upside down the moment he or she becomes a refugee...

Thijs Heslenfeld (photographs) and Rinke Verkerk (text)