Tag Archives: refugees

Living in a Barn in Snowy Lebanon, a Syrian Mom Braces for Winter

This is from the January 3 ANERA newsletter.
Syrian refugees in winter need protection due to poverty and poor living conditions More than half of the residents in Wadi Khaled live under the poverty line, with a large portion of them being Syrian refugees.
Back home in Syria, Nadia Al Hammoud had a house and a little farm. Now the mother of four is a refugee, living in a cattle barn in Lebanon. She fled Al Qusayr, Homs with her husband and four children in 2012, as the war took away all they had. The family of six ran away to save their lives, leaving behind any legal documents. Paperless, they settled in Wadi Khaled, a rural region on the Syrian-Lebanese border. “There are about 10,000 families residing in Wadi Khaled, equally divided between original Lebanese residents and refugee families who fled the civil war in Syria,” said Ali Al Badawi, the Mayor of Al Rama village in the Wadi Khaled area.

Poor Living Conditions for Syrian Refugees in Winter

Syrian refugees in winter need light and warmth, like Nadia who lives in a barn.

“We use candles at night, but now we have this battery-powered light,” said Nadia. “It’s a great support.”

Nadia and her family live in a single shoddy room in the cowshed. It has a cement floor that becomes frigid in the winter, walls that leak rainwater, and a roof rusted with asbestos. There are no glass windows in the shed, only open holes that let in the cold despite Nadia’s best efforts to seal them with nylon bags. But at 600 meters above sea level, the region is cold and windy. Winters see heavy snows.
Syrian refugees in winter live in harsh conditions like this converted barn in Lebanon

The converted barn, where Nadia lives with her family of six, offers very little protection from the cold.

This winter, ANERA distributed winter protection kits to 1,500  Syrian refugee families like Nadia’s. The families reside in Wadi Khaled and Berkayel, both in northern Lebanon. The UN reports that the area is one of Lebanon’s “most deprived regions.” Of the 1.1 million residents, roughly 65% are under the poverty line. The crisis in Syria greatly affected the region, as 300,000 refugees have settled there after fleeing war.

Winter Boots and Battery Rechargeable Lights Support Moms Like Nadia

Syrian refugees in winter need battery powered lights because they have minimal electricity.

Battery rechargeable lights are a necessity in villages like Wadi Khaled, where residents get only three to six hours of electricity per day.

The winter kits include warm clothing, boots and battery rechargeable lights to address the lack of reliable electricity. On average, there are three to six hours of electricity per day, and many Syrian families cannot afford to buy generators.
“We use candles at night, but now we have this light,” said Nadia. “The light is a great support to me, especially when one of the kids wake up at night.” Zahraa, Nadia’s youngest, was excited to slip on her new cozy winter boots and stow away her slippers for the summer. “My siblings will be very happy when they return from school and see the new things we’ve got,” said Zahraa. ANERA distributed the kits as part of its annual winterization program to help protect Syrian refugees in winter. Most of these families are enduring harsh conditions. As winter sets into the cold, hilly regions of Lebanon, these kits are a necessity for helping Syrian refugees keep warm.

Have You Heard of the White Helmets?

Dear friends, The UN just announced Aleppo is fast becoming 'one giant graveyard' and residents risk 'extermination'. Not one of our governments is in there saving lives, but an extraordinary group of Syrians are: The White Helmets. 73,530 lives in fact. That’s how many people they have saved, rushing to the scene of bombings to pull people from the rubble and carry them to safety. What's amazing is these heroes are just ordinary people — bakers, teachers, tailors — who felt they couldn't stand by, and threw themselves right into the line of fire. For their bravery, they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the $1 million of critical funding it comes with — but they lost! Forget the Nobel Prize — together we have the power to give the White Helmets the recognition they deserve and the funding they desperately need. For their heroic efforts, White Helmets volunteers are often targeted — Russian and Syrian regime planes bomb civilians, then circle back to bomb the rescue workers who scramble to help. It’s just a part of the picture of horror that’s rocked Syria for almost six years and killed as many as 470,000 people. It’s become harder and harder to stop — and has turned into the greatest shame of our generation. As the conflict continues to spiral, the White Helmets are doing work that no one else can, or will. They’re standing up as heroes while the world watches and fails to stop the conflict.
If you'd like to know more about these brave citizens:

And What About School?

I was distressed to learn that there are refugee youth who haven't been to school for over five years.   Does this mean we'll have a generation of unemployable young adults who can't read or write and therefore vulnerable to people who offer them a gun and some money to devastate a community? Here's what's happening in Lebanon.  Surely it's being duplicated in Jordan and elsewhere.  50% of refugee children between age 5 and 17 are not enrolled in school.  Only 17% of teenagers 16-18 are enrolled.  Why this high dropout rate?  There are over a million registered refugees, Syrian and Palestinian.  The schools are overcrowded.  School is taught in French or English, not Arabic.   An organization I've told you about, ANERA, is working to change that by offering education and vocational classes to give students the skills they need to support their families.  We are so lucky to be living here that it's almost impossible to imagine losing our house, our job, our loved ones,  our friends.  It's what happens when people have to run for their lives, leaving everything behind.  It's what makes them poverty stricken refugees.

Midwife Changing Lives Thru MedVint

  My friend who is in Turkey helping the Syrian and Kurdish refugees told me about Michelle and her work as a midwife volunteer with MedVint.   Here's her story. By Madeline Fox mfox@wichitaeagle.com Though reports out of Turkey have focused on last month’s terrorist attack at Ataturk airport in Istanbul and last week’s attempted military coup, for Kansas midwife Michelle Ruebke, the most important issue in Turkey today is its massive refugee population. More than 2.7 million people who have fled the Syrian civil war have now settled in Turkey, which connects Syria to Europe. Ruebke, 51, arrived in Izmir, Turkey, on June 26. Since then, she has seen hundreds of Syrian and Kurdish refugees at camps around the city whose complaints range from diabetes to ear infections to complications from pregnancy. Working alongside a local translator who is himself a refugee, as well as with a doctor and a nurse, Ruebke spends hours seeing patients in the plastic tents of Izmir’s refugee camps. It’s exhausting. But I have a skill that is really needed, and I knew there was a need working with the Syrian refugees in Turkey. “It’s exhausting,” Ruebke admitted. “But I have a skill that is really needed, and I knew there was a need working with the Syrian refugees in Turkey.” The attitude is characteristic of Ruebke, said her daughter, Hope. The Newton-based midwife has made similar volunteer trips over the past several years, visiting Haiti, the Philippines and Peru. “She goes above and beyond what is expected of her,” Hope Ruebke said. “Even if she doesn’t have the funding, she will go no matter what – she will find a way.” Hope Ruebke, 22, just returned from two years volunteering in Haiti. She said the whole family is “very mission-minded” and has been keeping up with their mother’s work through her Facebook posts and the occasional email. “It’s been exciting,” Hope Ruebke said of her mother’s Turkey trip. “We’re all very proud of her, though we’ve also been worried as it is a very hard place to be.” Michelle Ruebke and the other volunteers from MedVint, a Switzerland-based medical nonprofit organization, wake up early to pick up their translator before heading to the local pharmacy, where they spend hundreds of dollars each day on medications for the refugees. Ruebke says they visit each of the approximately 25 camps they serve about every two weeks. They spend at least three hours in each camp, though sometimes the visits last much longer. “The people here that I’ve worked with are just precious people – when we come into a camp they are so grateful and hospitable,” Ruebke said. She said she is frustrated by the lack of support refugees receive from the Turkish government and from local hospitals. She recalled seeing a young refugee woman whose family had brought her to a local hospital, where the refugee woman was made to wait outside until she was ready to deliver and then sent back to the refugee camp immediately after her baby was born. “There are so many patients we tell, ‘You need to go to a hospital for this, this is serious,’ and every single time the answer is, ‘We just went,’ ‘We were there yesterday,’ or ‘We went last week’ and ‘They refused to care for us, they just pushed us out the door,’” Ruebke said. Her Facebook page, on which Ruebke is posting daily updates about her work in the camps, includes several other stories of refugees struggling to receive necessary medical care at Turkish hospitals. Ruebke also solicits donations to her GoFundMe page on Facebook and has been asking for additional medical professionals – particularly a dentist, a chiropractor and an ear, nose and throat doctor – to come to Izmir. Also frustrating to Ruebke is the lack of basic resources in the camps. Ruebke said she and the other volunteers treat dozens of refugees suffering from diarrhea and other illnesses as a result of unclean or fertilizer-contaminated water. Earlier this week, though, she announced a partnership on her Facebook page with the nonprofit Waves for Water to bring water filtration systems to the camps. When Ruebke and her fellow MedVint volunteers arrive at a camp, she said they begin by treating women and their children, as the women will not talk about female-specific health problems in front of the men. The work can be slow, as they have to talk to all the refugees through their translator. Though the Syrian refugees speak Arabic, she said they sometimes see Kurdish refugees who do not, in which case they have to find someone in the camp who speaks Kurdish and Arabic to translate for their translator. Ruebke and the other volunteers take a day off every seven to nine days to recuperate from long days in the camps, but struggle to enjoy the breaks when they know people need their help. She recalled a trip to the ocean on one of their first days off when the volunteers went to the seaside to swim and enjoy the beach, but could not stop thinking about the refugees they had been treating. “We remembered that those were really the same waters where thousands of refugees have perished trying to reach freedom,” she said. “It was hard to keep enjoying the water after that.” Though it has been an eventful several weeks for Turkey, Ruebke said recent incidents have not affected her work much. Izmir is far from the Istanbul airport where suicide bombers detonated explosives in June, and unrest related to an attempted military coup last week did not stop her and her team from getting out to the camps. “She’s not afraid of anything, which comes in handy in situations like this,” Hope Ruebke said. For Michelle Ruebke, the hardest part will be leaving on Aug. 3 at the end of her six-week trip. The MedVint doctor and nurse who were in Izmir when she first arrived have already left, replaced by new volunteers. “The team is constantly fluctuating, but we try to have an overlap so that we can pass information and the need for follow-up care along before we leave,” she said. “Still, the situation is really worse than I imagined when I came, and leaving with it still being just as bad is difficult.” Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article91614707.html#storylink=cpy

Refugee Success Story

I just received this from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Report written by Maren Wickwire.   I hope it gives you an insight into the strength and determination of the people fleeing war. Majid and his wife, Shadan, along with their children, Rose (7) and Baban (4), came to Chicago, Illinois, in January 2015. Originally from Kirkuk, a diverse city in northern Iraq, they are grateful for the opportunity to live in the United States, where they have found safety for the first time in many years. Life in Iraq was not easy. “They will not allow you to name your children with Kurdish names,” Majid says. “Even the house, they will not allow you to have it under your name. You should change your nationality. But many people don’t like the idea. It is very hard to change, even if it is just a piece of paper. Inside, it is that God created me Kurdish. So why should I change my nationality?” Majid worked for an American non-governmental organization (NGO) in Iraq, where he helped people in need.
“I was working with the refugees. Because of the war in other cities, they were moving to my city. We gave them aid and we gave them assistance. Also, I was helping victims of the tragic car bombings and those who lost their property because of violence. We went there, we repaired their shops, we gave them grants.”
But as the danger of living in Kirkuk increased and many of his friends were killed by car bombings, Majid knew his family could no longer live safely in Iraq. Majid and Shadan dreamed of safety and a good education for their children. “This was our number one dream,” he says from his adopted city, Chicago. “They have a good education here, they will go to a good school, they have a better life than what we had. And we feel safe. It is a terrible feeling when you go outside in my country, Iraq. You never know when there could be a car bombing.” It took four years for Majid and his family to clear all the required steps for resettlement. They made the dangerous trip twice to Baghdad for interviews at the United States Embassy. Many of the roads they drove on were controlled by armed groups. When they finally found out they had been approved for resettlement, Majid says “the moment was like a light.” “It is like a hope, it is like a new life. Few people get this opportunity. You cannot imagine this moment you go to the United States and live there.” Majid was determined to find work as soon as they arrived in the USA. He sought help from a refugee resettlement agency in his new community. “I went there and I said, ‘Please find me a job, I am sick of being at home’.” After two months, Majid found work at Federal Mogul, an auto parts company, and has been working the second shift ever since. He is happy that he is able to provide for his family again. In addition to work, Majid and his family are seeking to improve their lives through education, with hopes for a bright future. Both Rose and Baban love going to school and are improving their English while making new friends. Shadan attends daily English language classes and is working towards becoming a history teacher. Majid plans to study NGO management and apply lessons learned from his fieldwork in Kirkuk. New environments bring new challenges, but Majid encourages his family and other refugees to persevere. “It’s tough, but stay positive and focus on your goal,” he says. “It takes time, but eventually you’ll make it.” Majid and his family can now live safely and feel proud of their Kurdish identity. “When you have contact with another nation, with another human, another different people, you feel that everyone is equal. They are looking at you not according to your background, religion, or your skin, or your things. Everyone deals with you very normal, like a human.”