By Victoria Ifould, International Giving Officer, ShelterBox
ShelterBox is Rotary’s partner in disaster response.
The Syrian crisis has been the largest and most sustained response in ShelterBox’s history. Since we first responded to the crisis in December 2012, ShelterBox has supported over 400,000 people, providing them with essential aid ranging from tents to warm winter clothes.
Ten years into the conflict, the need for emergency shelter supplies continues as families are forced from their homes by renewed conflict and existing shelters need repair after years of use.
Often over the years, the situation in Syria has fallen out of mainstream news. It has been thanks to the ongoing support from Rotary and Rotaract clubs around the world that ShelterBox has been able to continue to work with local partners and support families.
When reporting on the Syrian conflict, headlines often focus on figures and statistics. As we reach this tragic ten-year milestone, the harsh reality is that 12.3 million people have been displaced since the conflict began. It can be difficult for us to contextualise such figures and truly understand the impact the conflict has had on people’s lives. It is important that we share the stories behind this statistic and bring to life the experiences of those impacted by ten years of brutal conflict.
Meet Amira. Amira was forced to flee her village with her eight children when bombing destroyed her house and community. They travelled by foot to a displacement camp in Northeast Syria, staying in cars and relying on the hospitality and kindness of strangers until Amira managed to buy a small tent.
Life was difficult for Amira and her children when they arrived at the camp. In an unfamiliar place, they faced bad living conditions and struggled to keep warm in the bitter Syrian winters. Due to high inflation, the little money Amira had left was not enough to buy food or basic necessities such as pots and pans.
Although the family is grateful to be away from the conflict, they miss life in their past home.
“We are sad and crying for our village and our house. We had a cow and sold milk to make some money and life was beautiful, but now there’s nothing left. It is a very bad feeling when a person loses their home, their memories and the places they were used to.”
When families are displaced, and traumatised from their experiences, having a place to call home is invaluable. ShelterBox, working with local partner Bahar, supported Amira and her family with a large tent and a packed ShelterBox filled with water carriers, blankets, a kitchen set, solar light rope, tarpaulins and mattresses for sleeping.
Now that Amira and her family have settled in the camp, they can regain a sense of a normal family life. “Amana and Iman go to school, and the children play inside the tent and help me with some housework. There is nothing more important than home in our lives.”
Amira’s story is one of hope and resilience in the face of exhausting destruction and loss. Her hope for the future is that Syria returns to normal and her family can return home to their village.
With major offensives no longer dominating the news and the political stalemate creating an uncertain future, millions of displaced Syrians still face crises that threaten any fragile stability in their daily lives. Brutal winters, floods that wash away shelters, a deepening financial crisis, and the new threat of coronavirus – all of these create yet more challenges to overcome.
As we’ve all seen over the last year, the strength and resilience of people is astounding. We recently held a panel discussion focusing on our work in Syria. After discussing the horrors of the conflict, the panelists were asked how they stay positive. Jack, our Operations Co-ordinator in charge of our Syria response, hit the nail on the head with his reply. He simply said: “We have to because the families we support do. Their resilience is inspiring.”
You can find out more about ShelterBox and its partners’ work supporting families in Syria here: https://www.shelterbox.org/where-we-work/syria/#helping