According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4.8 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began in 2011. Over 6 million others are internally displaced within Syria in numerous official and unofficial camps. Many of these families live in unsanitary, unsafe, inhumane conditions; where they survive on meager rations and have access to almost no health care. The stories of what is happening right now are tragic: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/27/syrias-war-on-doctors
In situations like these, it’s hard to know how one can help, but Gishwhes and Random Acts— in partnership with our close friend, humanitarian photographer Giles Duley http://gilesduley.com/bio/ who has spent years helping families in refugee areas— have decided that while we may not be able to solve Syria’s problems, making some small impact is better than standing idly by doing nothing. Therefore, we have narrowed the scope and we are going to radically change the material situation of FOUR sweet families that have suffered tremendously from this conflict.
First, we invite you to join us in changing the life of Khouloud, her husband and 4 children (highlighted in video):
Khouloud was shot by a sniper and paralyzed from the neck down in 2012 while she was tending to her garden: “I had tried to plant a small area of land near our house, as it wasn’t possible to get vegetables like before. I was going to take care of the plants with my four children and suddenly a bullet hit my neck and I fell down and lost sensation. I could not move anymore. The children started shouting and yelling.”
Her family fled the country and managed to get her out of Syria. They found themselves living in a tented settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, one of thousands of such unofficial camps dotted across the country.
UNHCR provides minimal food coupons, but the family is struggling and there is almost no health care available for Khouloud. Khouloud’s husband has to provide her with 24-hour care as well as tending to their four young children. For two years, Khouloud has not moved from her bed, staring at the ceiling of the small shack that they live in. Even in these deplorable conditions and circumstances, they continue to create some semblance of “home.” War Correspondent Giles Duley, who first shared their story with us and continues to visit them bringing them support and global attention, communicated that: “Khouloud remains eternally positive and smiles, and her husband, Jamal, still looks at her with the love he did when they first met. The children do their homework on the bed with their mother and they always eat together.”
It’s hard to think of a home more filled with love and compassion, despite incredibly difficult circumstances. Khouloud's simple wish?
“To be a mother again,” she said. “I wish I could move my fingers because sometimes my son is injured outside and he comes in next to me. He moves my hand and he puts my fingers onto the wound. I wish I could move my fingers to touch the wound and make him feel like I am feeling it with him.”
Second, we invite you to join us in supporting Khawla Yassine and her family. Their story is equally heartbreaking:
Khawla, 12-years old, lives in Lebanon in a camp with her mother, Sana, and her sister and 5 brothers (two of them have serious disabilities). Their father is missing and presumed dead in Syria.
Her mother and 15-year old sister used to work in a salt factory, but they were let go as the factory didn’t have enough work for them. To add insult to injury, while frying food in their tent, they accidentally burned the tent down, losing everything— even their clothes. They found a bare-bones tent structure to move into temporarily but had dwindling resources for food, water, and health care.
At this point, 12-year old Khawla made the choice to consume poison. She later explained her reason to attempt suicide to her mother: ‘Mama, there are seven of us and you work and work to feed us, but you can’t keep up. Without me, there will be one less person to feed.’ She spent 13 days in intensive care.
She is out of the hospital, but the family is in dire need of support. Khawla also has two disabled brothers; 6-year old Mohamad, who has an intestinal disease, and Ahmad, an 8-year old suffering from a blood disease that inhibits his ability to speak.
Third, we invite you to join us in supporting Reem and her family:
Reem Diab was asleep in her home in Syria when a rocket hit the house. The explosion killed her husband in the bed next to her, one of her children died in the room next door and Reem lost a leg.
She’s now living in a tent on the rooftop of an unfinished building in Bekka Valley with her father and her remaining daughter, Sarah. Sarah does not go to school and Reem is unable to provide for her.
Lastly, we invite you to support 7-year old Aya and her family (highlighted in video):
Aya Sokheyta has spina bifida, a disability where she cannot move her legs.
Her family had a successful business in Syria when their home was bombed. For 10 days they hid in the basement with no food, running water or a toilet. When they felt it was safe, they snuck out of Syria, making the perilous journey to Lebanon. Aya’s 10 year old sister, Iman, carried Aya the entire way on her back.
They lived in a tent for 2 years in Syria until they were able to get relocated to a modest flat in France. Although relocated to relative safety, Aya still must get around on Iman’s back or by dragging herself along the ground with her arms. We want to get her a wheelchair and additional medical care and help out her family a bit as they settle into France.
These are tragic stories, but together, we are going to profoundly change their lives!
Random Acts and GISHWHES are joining forces to help these families, but we need your help. With your support, we can help provide Khouloud, Mohamad, and Ahmad with medical care. We can move both of these families into apartments and provide nutritional support and education for the children.
We’re raising money for combined support of all four families. This includes:
$1200 monthly rent to move them into clean and safe apartments
$700 monthly physiotherapist/care support for Aya, Reem, Khouloud and Khawla’s two brothers
$700 monthly bills/living costs (this will mean Khouloud’s eldest boy and Reem’s daughter can stop working and go back to school).
$7000 one-time fee - estimated for Khouloud to visit a spinal specialist and receive medical evaluation (including an MRI) to determine how to alleviate her suffering.
$10,000 for immediate medical care and a wheelchair for Aya.
We plan on supporting all four of these families for as many years as we can through Gishwhes and Random Acts. One day we hope to send these children to college. We will be updating everyone on an on-going basis.
100% of your donation is tax deductible, and 100% of your contribution will go to these families. (for non-US countries tax deduction eligibility will be contingent on your regional laws).
-Excerpts of this story by Giles Duley, as published on the UNHCR website about Khouloud and her family: http://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2016/6/57714a234/aya-doesnt-die-feisty-four-year-old-syria-survives-exile