13-year-old Oujelan. Ghaziyye and her twin girls. 4-year-old Saad, who's forgotten how to play—these are some of the faces that have stayed with today's writer, Lauren Fisher, who visited Lebanon a year ago.
Today, Lauren reflects on the people she met and celebrates the ways that World Vision's work with the Syrian refugees has helped them and many more, and continues.
I met 13-year-old Oujelan (shown below) at the end of his workday, his hands covered in clay and callouses from picking fruit for 12 hours straight. He used to be a star student, his achievements celebrated with certificates covered in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Ghaziyye’s tears sparked my own as the young mother shared her shame in not being able to bathe her 4-year-old twin girls (pictured above). She used to live in a 3-story home with terraces and a rose garden.
And although 4-year-old Saad didn’t say a word, his eyes, red with dust from helping his family stack bricks, spoke volumes. He had a fire truck he brought along from home in Syria, but as his family told me, “he’s forgotten how to play.”
These are the faces and stories that never leave me, though I met them more than a year ago. Now, as we approach four years into the Syrian refugee crisis, I can’t help but think of them and the more than 3 million other people still so far from home, their hopes of going back to “life as normal” becoming ever more distant.
The only comfort I can find is that another year also means that thousands more families have been helped by World Vision, whether it’s building a shower for Ghaziyye, or handing out a cash voucher so families like Saad’s and Oujelan’s can buy food without sending their children to work. We’ve now helped more than 1.7 million people affected by the crisis.
For a look inside just what that means, I spoke with Jeff Wright, who has more than two decades of experience working in some of the toughest emergency responses in the world, from the Haiti earthquake to the Syria crisis. He’s spent many months over the past few years at the forefront of our response to the crisis.
What parts of our work make you most proud?
“The meeting of people’s day-to-day needs. They were running across the desert and being shot at, seeing their homes bombed. Now, although life is far from ideal, they have a shelter to live in and bathrooms to use. We have been able to meet basic needs like food and water. Their children have safe spaces where they spend time to get out of the community homes. Places where they get help dealing with the difficult things they have experienced and even assistance with their education. We were the primary provider of healthcare in some parts in Syria—everything from common colds to baby deliveries, World Vision was there.”
I mentioned stories that stick with me. What are the stories that stick with you?
“I was visiting a home in Jordan and the family’s children were just talking about the things that they wanted to do. It reminded me very much of my own kids who are 11 and 13, right around the same age. In many ways totally normal and every bit like us and by some random twist of fate their circumstances are completely different and their future is in question. Being a parent and working for a child-focused agency and making home visits keeps it very real.”
What do you wish people knew about the Syria crisis?
“My wish list of what I would like the ordinary person to understand—yes, the crisis is horribly complicated, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. For sure it is volatile, it is dangerous, but there are still things we can do that can absolutely make a difference, whether it’s basic necessities or providing an education so we don’t lose a generation to the conflict. This is one of those crises that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And though we’re definitely doing emergency activities, we need to keep on going for the long term, too. It’s a tough slog but there are things we can do and we need to keep on doing them.”
* * *
Since the beginning of the Syrian refugee crisis, World Vision has helped more than 1.7 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. We hope to continue to increase that number and continue to fundraise so the needs of many more children and their families may be met.
Here are a few highlights:
- World Vision has helped over 1.2 million people in Lebanon—including around 525,000 Syrian refugees and around 695,000 Lebanese members of the host community.
- World Vision is working with people through child protection, water and sanitation, remedial education, food and relief supplies.
- World Vision has helped more than 240,000 people in Jordan, including in the Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps.
- In host communities, World Vision is endeavoring to ensure that children are protected, educated, and have access to food, as well as facilitating remedial education programs and helping families access clean water and sanitation.
- World Vision has helped approximately 250,000 people with essential water and sanitation to keep children healthy and hygienic, as well as primary healthcare, distributing food and winter items, and assisting with camps and the removal of litter to ensure child health.
- World Vision works in the north of Syria with implementing partners.
- World Vision has helped over 2,000 households in Iraq with mattresses, plastic sheeting, blankets, and cash or voucher support to improve shelter conditions this winter.
- 15,537 households (73,207 beneficiaries) have received food vouchers.
This week, we're partnering with One Day's Wages to double your ability to help children and families displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq! For every dollar you give to One Day's Wages' World Vision campaign, they will match, up to $50,000. Give now!