If ever I wished I had a blog, it was in January this year, after returning from a holiday to the Middle East. The last day of our holiday saw some 30 of us get an opportunity to visit a Syrian refugee camp in Joub Jannine, which is about a two-hour drive from Beirut. Joub Janine is roughly three kilometers from the Syrian border and is a deserted farming town. At that stage it housed 20,000 refugees, and the number has been steadily increasing.
I came back wanting to scream and shout the plight of the Syrian people, so they wouldn’t be forgotten. It had been three years of unrest when we visited in December 2013, this is he fourth year and their plight has worsened.
We were on a tour of the Middle East, and due to security concerns, Syria which is normally included, was ruled out. Hence, the opportunity to distribute aid on behalf of Darul Ihsaan was an unexpected privilege. It was freezing that day (severe snow storms were expected), with most of us wearing thermals, double jerseys, jackets and scarves.
We were welcomed with warm hospitality by the local Lebanese townspeople whom have taken it upon themselves to help the Syrians. A local optometrist leads this and donated his land on which the refugee camps have been erected. We distributed aid at a local school, the locals had a voucher system in place ensuring equal distribution. As different families have different collection days, there was a mini stampede outside the school where people without vouchers for that day tried to push their way in.
Afterward, we visited some unfinished buildings where refugees with money stayed (they had to pay monthly rent here). These buildings had plastic covering windows, and very meager belongings.
We also visited two tented camps in the middle of open fields. These conditions were far worse than the buildings, with kids without shoes, thin clothing, runny noses playing around. It had snowed, so water flooded the floors of the tents, and stones were used to tie tents down. Most refugees have lived there in this condition for over two years.
I never imagined I’d visit a refugee camp, but like most that went, was completely humbled by the experience. Seeing the children was difficult, but what lingers most is the quiet dignity of the Syrian people. The women and children were always smiling and respectful as they led us into their private spaces. It put life into perspective, and reminded us to be grateful for our lives, freedoms and countless blessings. Many, many organisations are doing fantastic work in conflict regions such as Syria, and I think it’s for us to support them.