Syrian Refugee Relief
Here's what he wrote July 2018.
Amira is 61 years old, each wrinkle on her face reflecting a sorrow, a heartbreak. And there have been many. Amira had a normal life in Syria not long ago; she was happily married with six children before the Syrian Civil War came and tore apart her country and her family. When a rocket exploded outside her family’s apartment in Aleppo, Amira’s husband went to help the injured. A second rocket exploded, killing her beloved husband and father of her children. Many others searching for survivors lost their lives in that second strike.
The next year Amira’s son died during a missile attack where people were waiting for water. To add sorrow to sorrow, soon another son would die, leaving behind his wife and four fatherless children.
Each year brings another death. The next year it is a son-in-law, the husband of Amira’s newly married daughter. He leaves behind a daughter who presently has meningitis.
In the year 2016 came an intensified bombing campaign of eastern Aleppo, bringing with it untold pain, suffering, and misery. The UN’s humanitarian chief warned that eastern Aleppo was being turned into “one giant graveyard.” During this nightmare, Amira’s grandchild, the fourth child of her widowed daughter, was injured when a bomb blast threw her against a wall, smashing her skull.
So Amira left Aleppo through an established safe corridor to Idlib, hoping to recover from the horrors she had lived through. But in September and October of 2017, the hospitals where she had been taking her grandchildren for treatment were bombed. In early 2018, the fighting in Idlib and Afrin displaced thousands more and she decided to join the thousands of Syrians trapped along the border, willing to risk their lives to reach Turkey.
Amira arrived in our city on the first of February with her family of 12: herself, a daughter with an injured child; her disabled son, his wife, and their daughter; her youngest son, age 13; and her widowed daughter-in-law with four children, the youngest with a damaged skull. She moved in temporarily with her sister in a clean but overcrowded abode in a crime-infested slum area.18 people lived in this little flat
We met brave Amira one week after her arrival. Her brother B. lives here in Turkey; he is in immense pain with part of his head badly injured. He has trouble breathing and suffers greatly. We had not seen B. in a long time. He ventured to call us about these new refugees, his own sister’s family, who had arrived with only the clothes on their backs.
You can easily see the deep insecurity in the children, having fled Aleppo in 2016, and now, a year or so later, having to run for their lives again from Idlib. It is hard to imagine what these children must be going through, living in war zones for most of their lives and having to move twice already while still young. Amira just wants to find a safe haven for her remaining family, far from the sounds of war.
It seemed beyond our volunteer team’s capability to adopt a new refugee family, considering our limited resources and so many other families to assist. Yet, how could we not help them and try to take them under our wings? It was so obviously the right thing to do with this great need right in front of us.
A friend from the UK gave a generous gift for the mothers to purchase new clothes. We returned the next day with clothes for all the children, courtesy of a local Foreign Women’s Club. An angel from abroad sent us $1000 to secure housing for Amira. Other friends went on a crusade to gather as many household items as they could.
Fast-forward three weeks. They now have a new house in a better part of town, with a green area nearby where the children can play. Recently we did our second delivery of household items. The Foreign Women’s Club delivered two carloads and a truck of aid, and we gave a nice bed and mattress from our former large home.
The kids were shell-shocked and difficult to reach when they first arrived. Now they are so happy to have a house of their own, with their own beds, toys, and a sense of security. Local friends donated truckloads of household items!
We were also able to register them all to get their ID cards in a single day! For those who live here and work with refugees, you know that this process can take weeks, and at times, even months. The authorities bent over backwards to help us do this.
Seeing Amira and her family’s utter joy as we delivered the different donations was such a reward. In a matter of three weeks I personally went from feeling overwhelmed to an overwhelming happiness in seeing how people are giving and giving again.
Amira’s grandchildren (one child is photoshopped in, as she was in the hospital at the time)
We took the family to the UN representative office to try to get translators for the urgent medical needs of the baby with meningitis and the toddler whose skull was cracked when their house was bombed.
With the ongoing war in Syria, daily seeing humanity at its worst, it is so heartwarming to see another side of humanity, humanity at its best! People from so many different nationalities, creeds and colors coming together to rescue these refugees who have suffered greatly. The unselfish giving stands out even more as light shines even brighter in contrast to the darkness around us.
We had a recent visit from an international aid worker to assist with some of our families who are in terrible situations. This woman has been a key player in over five major medical camps in Europe and bringing issues up to the UN. We also had a former UN translator with us, and an Asian man who has connections with leading international human rights lawyers. They visited Amira, and our guest broke down in tears while visiting with her and her family. The next day we were struggling over just how complex these issues are, and just wishing there was a simple solution and an end to war. We were driving to a border region and she was playing some beautiful Irish/Celtic music. I told her of a song I had once heard with a similar style that comforted me with my work. The song, “Safe Haven” by Joanna Dooley, almost perfectly describes the struggles the refugees face. She found the song on YouTube and was immediately taken by Joanne’s gripping and angelic voice, set to her father’s lovely music.
Tears began to flow when she heard the words “by faith we set sail at the dawning of day...” She had just journeyed the Aegean Sea from Greece to Turkey, where she had a very emotional experience. While crossing, she kept staring down at the sea, sadly wondering how many refugees, especially children, are beneath the waters. Hearing this stanza of the song brought a flood of images of children washed up on the Greek and Turkish shores flashing before us.
The song continued. The line “When life treats us hard, by the foot, by the yard, knocks us over again and again” opened the floodgate of tears again. Pictures filled our mind of streams of refugees walking across Europe, braving the elements, being mistreated.
Aid workers often suffer from “refugee fatigue,” and this song brought a healing balm. She played it three times, holding on to every word, and I could see that Joanna’s soothing voice was bringing comfort to this elderly woman who has given so much.
The song closes with a message of hope, about “our tears to cease, in the harbor of peace, as we come to that safe haven.” The song is such an inspiration to us to try and give the refugees a “safe haven.”
We try to provide the refugees with a sense of belonging, to know that there is Someone who loves them and who is there for them in an emergency. At times they call us by day, voice choked with tears. Night is torture; they can’t sleep because of fear, as they long for this safe haven. Kids who were once withdrawn, always with a frown, now beam with joy in their safe haven.
These folks are still in desperate need of many items. If you can help, please use the sponsor page and specify "for Syrian Refugee Relief Team" and WPnet will forward it to them. Thanks!
Your gifts have brought hope to countless refugee widows and their children and families. The smiles on the faces of the children make it worth it all. Thanks for your help in assisting us to bring joy to many!
Much love and prayers,
John, for the Syrian Refugee Team