The Spirit of Sacrifice
People are fleeing Syria daily; they head towards Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. We witnessed many families crossing into Turkey in search of peace and security.
As we entered Syria and made our way to Jolan camp, we felt a sense of relief and were overwhelmed by the beautiful, mountainous surroundings.
Jolan camp is one of the newer camps within Syria. It was set up just a few months ago to cater for people who have been driven away from their homes, fleeing towards the border of Turkey for safety.
We arrived at the camp during the monthly food distribution. In the scorching heat we saw heads of families coming to the distribution points, waiting patiently in line. Families were called one by one to receive their monthly allowance: all the basics that adults and children need for a balanced diet.
They all greeted us with huge smiles, yet it was easy to feel the pain that so many of them must have felt as they returned to their tents with no clear idea of when this conflict might end.
Every person had a different story to share, each from a different area, holding a different heartache, yet where they could, they united and supported one another.
I was touched by how keen the beautiful innocent children of Syria were to meet and greet us. Their smiles entered our hearts and the radiance of the word ‘Alhamdulilah’ continuously uttered, after all that they had been through was humbling to hear.
I was in awe of these children as not one of them complained, but instead they had managed to hold onto the innocence of their childhood, wanting to play and enjoy life. One child, Ahmed, told me about how he believed in what was written for him and his friends, and how he hoped for a better future.
We met the local community leaders who are greatly respected in these camps. They had helped all the internal refugees, by co-ordinating and supporting the delivery of aid. They were keen for us to meet some of the families and talk to them.
A crowd began to form as we walked through the camp, people meeting and greeting us, thanking us with warm smiles of gratefulness. The words ‘You’re welcome’, ‘Please come in’, were ringing out from family to family.
It was then that I felt tremendously ashamed. I kept thinking to myself we don’t deserve such praise. While we are doing what we can to help, I felt like there was so much more we could be doing.
One thing was certain: the warm Syrian hospitality hadn’t died out even in these difficult circumstances and everyone we met was keen to invite us to join them with whatever they had. ‘We Syrians are honoured to have you’. Although this was difficult to take in and understand, it really put things into perspective and showed me how special these people are.
We saw a family in the distance sat on a blanket, covered by a blue plastic sheet that was being held up by part of a tree and part of a broken down tractor. Under the plastic sheet, Um Mohammed was sitting in her ‘home’ with her five children.
Um Mohamed had fled her home, which had been bombed, in Raef Hama four months ago. She came to Jolan camp and 23 days ago she gave up her tent to others as she felt that the elderly people, her mother-in-law amongst them, needed the tent more than she did.
What was most humbling was that she was the wife of one of the community leaders of this camp. Sacrifice, sincerity, and humility in action. There was no space for titles and no time for complaints. In the most testing of times it was heart warming to see the sense of sacrifice and looking after others’ needs, that was so evident in Um Mohamed
Islamic Relief has one of the biggest operations inside Syria and in total has already delivered over £21 million of lifesaving aid to over a 1.5 million people. Although the numbers sound big, the needs are far greater and more support is urgently needed. It really is a race against time for us all to do as much as we can.
Everything that we do makes a difference. There are many challenges. There are big needs, however, we are all in a position where we can help this situation and do our duty to our brothers, sisters and children of Syria.