On the Road to Damascus
“I remember the sweet moments in my city when the snow was falling just before Christmas 2013. Looking out through my window our children, with their new hats and gloves, playing excitedly in the snow.
In wasn’t long after that, as the children were getting ready for school that everything changed. The phone rang and a friend warned us not to leave the house as ‘Daesh’ (ISIS) were in the streets nearby.
Refugees on the move
In search of safety & security
When someone chooses to flee their homes to escape the terrors of war, this is not an easy choice. To leave everything they have known and worked for, for an uncertain future. For many of them the decision to flee is just the beginning of their traumatic journey to safety and so often the conditions that they are met with are far from providing them with the shelter and supplies that they need to survive.
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For three years, 1,500 displaced people, primarily from Mosul, called a half-finished building in Erbil, which became a refugee camp, home. This Christmas, the tall skeleton of the building was empty: after Mosul and its surrounding area was liberated, most of the families returned to their hometowns and villages, and have started the long process of rebuilding.
These are the words used to describe the temporary living quarters for thousands of refugees who have fled their homes and find themselves on the island of Lesvos, Greece. The summer surge of new arrivals means the camps there are accommodating well over their capacity. Life looks increasingly bleak as tempers fray in crowded quarters, and temperatures overnight drop to near zero in tents which are already struggling with the wind and rain.
When I learnt about the horrible situations faced by Iraqi and Syrian children in refugee camps, with no access to education and at risk of exploitation, I knew I needed to get my community, my university, involved. At GAiN we partner with local communities in this country, to make sure that people living in these camps can have hope for their future by meeting their needs today.
Early in July our project team once again went to Cluj-Napoca for the third year running. A team of 12, made up of students and recent graduates, spent 10 days working alongside the local project staff who are focused on changing the future prospects for the next generation of Roma gypsy children living next to the city rubbish dump. Emanuel who was returning with the team for the second time shares his impressions of the project.
On 7th April, our group of nine volunteers with Agapé Student Life came from across the UK to Thessaloniki, to join the GAiN project not knowing fully what to expect. We arrived to a former army airfield, and the first thing we saw was a children’s playpark, something that none of us expected. As we began a quick tour, it was clear that the children were the life and soul of the camp – and often a source of much entertainment.
Nearly six years of war in Syria has left 6.3 million people displaced and 470,000 have lost their lives. It can be hard to make sense of the individual impact in the face of abstract numbers. In the last few weeks one of our team was able to spend time with people whose lives have been forever changed by this conflict. Amira* shares in her own words both the trauma and triumph of continuing to live one day at a time.