Our projects inside Syria
Thanks to a Syrian civil society network, we have succeeded in reaching refugees in Damascus and the surrounding area, as well as in Homs, Hama, and Suweida, to provide direct, personal aid to refugee families within Syria. This includes monthly care packages, housing, and medical care such as treatment and funding for operations and prostheses. In Damascus, we are supporting an orphanage and helping a municipality provide foster care for its orphans. Another important focus of our work is the planning and implementation of sustainable “Helping Others Help Themselves” projects.
Examples of these include developing a poultry farm, training seamstresses, building a sewing studio, establishing a vegetable farm, holding training workshops for trauma therapists, and providing care and services to Syrian refugees in Turkey, most of whom come from the Aleppo area. The great majority of our projects are undertaken inside Syria, however, which allows us to reach those internal refugees most in need of aid, many of whom are in dire need due to the conflict.
Syria needs help. About one half of the Syrian population is currently dependent on humanitarian aid.
At last count (July 2014), almost 250 families were receiving monthly care packages from us. These include not only basic foodstuffs such as rice, pasta, bulgur wheat, sugar (as a nutritional supplement), tomato paste, cooking oil, and cheese, but now and then small “luxury items” like tea or coffee, and less frequently chocolate, and even less frequently (in July 2014, before that in September 2013) meat. Sometimes we are also able to include soap and detergent. All of the items are purchased, stored, and in some cases repackaged from larger volume containers by our local assistants. The care packages are then brought to the families in person, often with a small “allowance” for everyday necessities such as sanitary products.
As of July 2014, we have been able to arrange and pay the rent for accommodations for about 160 families. Some families are living together with other families; and many of them include grandparents. All of the families are internal refugees in Syria whose previous homes have been destroyed. Before they move in, we provide them with simple mattresses, bed covers, cooking utensils, water, electricity (where possible), and various smaller items. The children of the families (currently over 300) receive everything they need for school, such as notebooks, writing utensils, books, and where applicable school uniforms. Additionally, twice per year the families receive clothing, which we purchase used and have mended. If a child is born to one of the families, we pay for the costs of the birth and provide baby clothes, diapers, and for a limited period baby food.
As far as is possible under the circumstances, we are aiming to provide all of the families we support, as well as other individual patients, with access to medical care and to cover the costs. We regularly deal with chronic conditions like diabetes, pharmaceuticals for age-related illnesses, and obstetric and intensive neonatal care. Cancer treatment, which we take on less often, and surgeries, including amputation if necessary, are of particular concern, especially for children. Due to the proportionally high costs involved, the decision to cover such treatments can only be made on a case-by-case basis. We are able to acquire ambulatory devices such as walkers and wheelchairs for handicapped persons.
In July 2014 we began partially subsidizing accommodations, meals, school supplies, clothing, baby food, and diapers for about 140 full and partial orphans in the Damascus area. Sixty-eight of these children are under six years old; 39 are between seven and ten; the ten remaining children are between 11 and 14; there are also youths between 15 and 18 years old
In one Syrian community we are financing a poultry farming project in order to create a small number of permanent jobs and to produce eggs and meat for community members. Here chicks are raised to adulthood, their eggs hatched in incubators, the next generation of chicks cared for, and so on. Once they’re grown, the chickens will be distributed to families for keeping, thus providing them with regular access to eggs. Out of this cycle, recipients ideally will become self-supporting. And by selling produce as well as distributing it for free, the poultry farm will both provide its workers with an income and eventually pay for itself.
Our projects outside Syria
According to official statistics (March 2015), there are over 1.600,000 registered Syrian refugees in Turkey, of which an estimated 250,000 have been stranded in Istanbul. Some of them have no place to sleep except in public spaces, and with neither accommodations nor chances for employment they are forced to beg. Children have been deprived of their homes, access to education, and any “space” for childhood.
Our long-term goal is to build a family center for Syrian refugees, a kind of “multigenerational house.” We plan to offer accommodations there for families with small children and grandparents, to set up work spaces so that people have a place to work and earn an income, and to offer classrooms and chill-out spaces for children. Until we achieve this goal, we are working in Bursa and Istanbul to take care of a number of families who come primarily from the Aleppo area and have been deeply affected by the war. The families receive extensive support, both with their rent and necessities of daily life; we are also helping them to find jobs and to access medical care.
With the support of professionals from Germany, we are also offering psychotherapy to refugees and training to others so that they, too, can provide this important service. Since June 2013 we have been collaborating here with the Münster-based IPE (Institut für Potenzialentfaltung: the Institute for Potential Development), which offers Potential Development training to coaches for children and adolescents as well as to other trainers and therapists. Integrative Potential Development facilitates the long-term recovery from deep psychological stress. We are pleased and excited that IPE founder Daniel Paasch, together with a number of the more than 300 IPE coaches, including many doctors and therapists, will be joining us in Istanbul for this project.
In Lebanon we are supporting the establishment and management of a seamstress workshop for Syrian refugee women. There, the women will both learn the trade and produce garments that they can sell. In this way, they will all have the possibility to earn money and thus support their families. Additionally, a kitchen will be put to use for cooking classes and the preparation (and preserving) of various foods. These too will be sold and thus generate further jobs. In general we are attempting to create sustainable conditions for as many refugee women as possible to learn and practice a vocation, so that they can earn money and support their own families. Social problems can thus be mitigated within the family; and instead of being forced into a child labor situation, their children will be free to attend school — just one of the positive effects of this project!