My Name is Mohammed, a prominent volunteer and management team of Mercy Worldwide trust it gives me great pleasure to share my recent experience of aid work in Syria. With a completely non political view and a humble approach to charity work I find humanity at the forefront of my mentality and aspiration factor in why I travel thousands of miles to aid those whom are less fortunate.
On December 23rd 2012 as most were preparing to celebrate their Christmas and feast on a variety of luxuries along with their families in their warm and comfortable surroundings I, along with several other volunteers was preparing my vehicles to embark on a journey across mainland Europe, into Western Asia and towards our destination which would be the heart of the Arab world. Due to current conflicts, many have been killed and millions are now officially classed as refugees, embarking on their own unfortunate journey to flee across borders to safety away from the conflict. Off course, this means leaving at short notice in dire circumstances with no possible hope of returning to normality!
As an individual I find it extremely difficult to live in my comforts and ignore the plea of those who suffer from poverty on a daily basis. I feel very blessed to have the opportunities of comprehensive travel and feel that the only restriction that prevents people in getting involved in charity work is their own mindset. My father always taught me “if you believe in yourself you can achieve anything by the will of Allah” during my travels this it has become more apparent what this means!
Nearly 4000 miles of open road, through 8 countries with many struggles anticipated and factored into the logistical planning and thoughts of all the volunteers. I believe if the journey doesn’t come with any struggles then there’s something not quite right! Along with trying to do aid the needy, comes the trial of patience, which inevitably builds on any characters strengths or weaknesses.
On this project I was privileged to travel with a very close cousin for whom it was the first humanitarian aid project and certainly not the last! We raised funds in a variety of ways including a charity car wash, personal donations from family members and also a lot of support from friends and local people.
The journey commenced on 23rd December 2012 and we traveled through some beautiful scenery, some memorable moments and some very testing times throughout the journey which lasted almost 10 days. The best way to describe the journey is that you aim to live the life of those that you go to help. So in essence you live through a struggle with a lack of sleep, lack of food and tough conditions whereby sacrifices have to be made. However, these journeys help you to connect with amazing individuals all with the same aim of helping the poor. Along with the creation of memories and friends come the breathtaking views, especially of the Swiss Alps and many more beautiful countries. The beautiful views only add to the spiritual feeling attained that you are making a huge sacrifice out of your life to help others and even that doesn’t feel as enough is being done from your own behalf!!
After the long and tiring 10 days of travel, we were getting closer to our destination and there were mixed feelings inside of me. The very strong emotional feeling that I would not be able to handle or comprehend the struggle of the Syrian Refugees and also the slight feeling of fear kept creeping up but was soon extinguished by the thought that the children of Syria have to live through this struggle throughout their daily lives.
On new year’s day January 2013 we entered into the Syrian refugee camp based in a village called Yaglmadiyah approx 5-10 miles within Syrian land near to the Turkey border. Upon arrival we already had pre-ordered medical aid which was bound for a clinic set up by the locals with the aid of foreign charities catering in many ways for the refugees as a base providing medical aid and also food and shelter. There was no other way of transporting the medical aid so we carried this on our backs through mountain terrain which was tough but very rewarding, as we discovered that there is no better way of distributing charity then getting actually stuck in and making an effort to some real work! Our motto on behalf of Mercy Worldwide is to help in a real way that can make a real difference to those who require the help the most.
The walk up to the refugee camps was an emotional time with reflection upon what this journey really meant. Was I deserving of this opportunity?, Would my efforts be enough? meanwhile, thinking that the weight of the boxes being carried seemed a lot heavier than anticipated.. Was this the weight of the burden and responsibility? As I walked closer and closer to the refugee camps I felt a beautiful feeling of contentment and my heart was at peace.. Was this the beautiful feeling related to the value of the soil that I had walked upon…. the beautiful As Sham? Strange, even though I could hear distant gunfire and the echoes of shelling my heart was at peace, I felt safe as the mid-morning sun over Syria heated my face gently. Calmly, I commenced forward with ever step feeling even more beautiful and with my eyes firmly fixated on the rough path ahead of me I could not help but think how amazing this feeling was inside of me. The weight of the boxes of aid seemed to become heavier as we closed on our destination and the feeling within was that I was being guided and assisted with the load by a sudden surge of patience.
As we neared our destination, it became apparent that these people were most welcoming even through their struggle. As we passed by tent after tent, the refugees welcomed us with beautiful smiles and for a moment it disguised their pain in my eyes. However, the deeper we got into the village the destruction became clearer and it suddenly dawned on me that these amazing people were not hear by choice. Where had they come from? And why would anyone have to live like this!!
As we were greeted by the doctors at the clinic we had the opportunity to meet some of those whom had been injured through the conflict and actually seen the medical aid put into use in front of our very own eyes. How much more amazing could this trip be? This aid had been carried on behalf of you and now we were seeing the rewards of this aid being reaped by those injured. We were very quickly shown around the village whilst fighting my tears back as I felt some of the pain that these inspirational people were going through. As I write this report, the emotions have come flooding back and I cannot help but to think how much I miss these people! Even though they were strangers to me you may ask! However, these strangers very quickly gained a special place in my heart. How could one smile through loosing an arm or a leg! Or how could a small child as young as three be living in these conditions! And that was the amazing thing. These children seemed content and happy with their lifestyles. I reflected on my life and could not help but think how I dare complain about losing a luxury in my life, when these innocent people smile through pain, lack of basic necessities and even minimal sanitary facilities. I felt ashamed, I had come to the aid of those living through struggle but within my first few hours was already taking away lessons I had learnt from these remarkable people.
As we distributed in person to each family living in dire conditions the hospitality amazed me. These outstanding people had very little yet were ready to give us their last piece of bread not knowing where their next meal would come from. Is it true that through poverty one attains humbleness and heartfelt compassion towards other humans? Certainly seemed this way, as I had never come across anyone willing to make a sacrifice big enough to create personal hardship!
On the second day of our very short stay, we had carried in little treats for the children and personally went around whilst spending time with the refugee children and distributing the sweets and toys. Not exactly a massive aid! But certainly put a massive smile on the faces of the children. It would be hard to comprehend the warm feeling of contentment that was gained to see these smiles on the children’s faces even though we were handing them items that we waste with ease! As we walked around the village it dawned on me that I would be leaving soon and the peace I had felt whilst spending time with the Syrian refugees would be left behind. Over a short space of time I had built an indescribable attachment to this naturally blessed place with the beautiful people and felt very sad to be leaving
I write this report on behalf of Mercy worldwide a few months after my return. I feel my words have not done this experience justice but I have tried my up most to reflect what a beautiful feeling is attained whilst going to the aid of those less fortunate. As I sit here letting my inner feelings flow naturally in this report, I cannot help but think when I will be blessed enough to return to this amazing country.
My report is not for recognition, nor is it for personal gain, I share my story purely for others to become inspired so that we can all diminish our restrained mentality that this is not possible for me, or it is too dangerous. The restrictions are only within the mind and any individual could complete this type of work or any other aid work just by making that little sacrifice.
I sincerely request that you help us to support the poor and please keep the people of Syria in your thoughts and prayers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who supported this aid mission and may god bless you all. Furthermore I would like to express my greatest gratitude towards Mercy Worldwide for supporting me in many ways throughout the last three years and feel I owe a lot to their passion for helping the less fortunate with a clear and pure intent.