As you know by now, social justice issues are important to me. There's plenty of injustice to go around, plenty for all of us to tackle. I want to alert you to a PBS program about a couple from Massachusetts who left home for Prague, Czechoslovakia to help desperate refugees escape Nazi Germany. The program is called Defying the Nazis. One couple defying hate. Now we have horrific violence in Syria and Iraq fueling the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Countries are sealing their borders, shunting refugees from one border to the next, and failing to provide desperately needed humanitarian aid. As always, women and children are the most vulnerable. The Dominican Republic revoked the citizenship of its residents who were born to undocumented Haitian parents. This meant deportation. Now refugees, with nothing waiting for them in Haiti, they're living in tent cities on the border, facing hunger, unemployment and government indifference. Who are the most vulnerable? Women and children. Check Myanmar to see what's being done to the Muslims in Rohingya. And then there's us. Do we have the courage of that Massachusetts couple to step out of our comfort zone to defy hate?
This is from the January 3 ANERA newsletter.
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 WinterNadia 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. 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
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.
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:
Who are the White Helmets? (The Atlantic) http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/09/syria-white-helmets/502073/Syria's White Helmets Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (Al Jazeera) http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/08/syria-white-helmets-nominated-nobel-peace-prize-160817161037355.html How the White Helmets of Syria Are Being Hunted in a Devastated Aleppo (Time) http://time.com/4507009/aleppo-offensive-syria-white-helmets-attack/ Syria's White Helmets (The Daily Beast) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/03/syria-s-white-helmets-the-life-savers-putin-calls-terrorists.html
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.
Imagine you’re a Syrian grandmother who has fled from her home, now living in a small apartment in Jordan with your husband, who is bedridden with Parkinson’s disease, and your son’s family, including several grandchildren. Without assistance you’d have to beg or borrow just to buy medicine for your husband and feed your grandchildren. What would you do?