The last few days of our trip flew by. It feels like a world of things happened since we last wrote on Tuesday night. We spent our last day in Mafraq returning to the five homes we had visited the day before. We brought mattresses, blankets, plastic rugs, gas canisters and stoves. People were so happy to see us again, thankful that when we said we’d come back, we really did. Women kissed me on both cheeks, men shook hands with Demetri, and children ran up to welcome us back. Church volunteers carefully copied down each family member’s name and kept track of items distributed. This was done to ensure that each household received the same basic supplies.
There were difficult moments. At one home we visited, the husbands of two of three sisters living in a converted storefront got in a physical fight over whether one family would be able to take the stove and gas canister with them when they left for another apartment. While Demetri and the other men broke up the fight, I stood on the far side of the room squeezing the hand of a 15 year old girl. She shook her head and said that she wanted to go back to the Zaatri camp which was, in her words, ‘heaven’ compared to their current living situation. Another woman we visited was clearly suffering from PTSD—her eyes were glazed over and she had trouble remembering that we had visited her the day before. Her two children were sick and the family’s poverty was so severe that one of the aid workers suggested that they might be better cared for in the Zaatri Camp.
In every neighborhood we visited, it was obvious that there were many families—Syrian and Jordanian—in need of help. No sooner had we handed a package of diapers to one Syrian mother than there appeared two others asking for similar handouts. The church volunteers were incredibly patient. Every time one of the Syrians was upset over not receiving one item or another, the lead volunteer calmly explained that there were many families that needed help, and if a representative of the family would register at the church, volunteers would follow up to help them as best they could.
Despite the difficulties, there were also beautiful moments. When we visited the families on Tuesday, we had brought small gifts of colored pencils, crayons and paper for all of the little kids. At the second home we visited, the children came out of the house holding the crayons in their hands. I asked the oldest girl, 9, if she had drawn anything since yesterday. She said yes, taking my hand and leading me into their home. Along the wall were about 8 pictures they had drawn. They were so beautiful and you could see that they were so proud. These poor little kids have gone through so much trauma. They aren’t in school and don’t have opportunities to explore their creativity or escape their daily lives. It felt so good to have been able to bring that to them. We brought in a few more gifts (funded by your donations): construction paper, extra crayons, coloring books, and Arabic children’s books. The eldest girl promised us that she would read them to her brothers and sisters.
It’s hard to know how long people will be in this situation. The war gets worse each day and people are left with literally nothing; nothing in Syria and nothing in Jordan, either. Several of the refugees told us that their homes were reduced to rubble in the fighting. When the war ends, it will take time for people to be able to go home again. The country is broken, infrastructure destroyed; people will be afraid of what and who they return to. But they yearn to be back. Leaving each family’s home, we told each other ‘see you next time in Syria, Inshaa Allah (God Willing)’.
We made a huge impact with your support. In less than 30 days, we were able to raise $9,770 from 123 donors. We spent every dollar you donated directly on clothing, formula for babies (600 1 lb. tins), diapers and sanitary napkins (approximately 190 packages of 48 child diapers, 230 packages of sanitary napkins, and 120 packages of adult diapers for the elderly and the injured), and we funded a Mercy Corps project to provide toys and art supplies to children as part of the starter kits described above. The pictures attached show the items we bought but they can’t show how appreciative the families we met were to receive these basic necessities.
We are both committed to carrying on our efforts. Several of you have reached out to us about continuing to support Syrian refugees. We will continue to accept donations on our gofundme site (http://www.gofundme.com/249yoo) and work with Catherine (our contact at Mercy Corps) to invest donations where they are most needed. She has agreed to provide us with receipts and photographs of items that are purchased with our donations. If there is something specific that has touched you or you feel that you want to be more involved in, let us know. Opportunities we discussed with Catherine include sponsoring specific families, donating to Pastor Nour’s church and his local efforts, and continuing to purchase in-kind donations like those we bought this past week. We encourage you to pass along our emails and the link above with anybody you think might want to help. This has been an incredible experience for both of us. Thank you again for being a part of it.