Human Appeal Ireland, Hatay, Turkey-Syria Border: Day 2
by Hajar Al-Kaddo
There were many moments throughout the Hatay trip that our group came together to evaluate our own strengths and weaknesses as individuals, but this introspection was a spectacular learning curve. It was a chance to reflect on the plight we had witnessed. Notably the decorum and dignity of the Syrians who respected and comforted each other in such desperate times imparted many life lessons on each of us.
During our different visits, we met a very small portion of the 12.2 million Syrians who were affected by the war. Vulnerable young women and children were among those in besieged areas and their fragility shook me. The wide eyes of the children were truly mesmerizing, the moment when my own eyes met theirs is an indelible memory, and their returning smiles were beyond words. Spending time with the children was one of the highlights of my time in Hatay. Hearing the songs of a free Syria transported us a hopeful future, but when we heard of what the families had lost, a sense of heartbreak set in.
Our visit to the rehabilitation centre and the women there epitomised this moment. In the makeshift centre with scant supplies, it was terribly under-resourced and this was a huge barrier to overcome. Essentials like a gas oven, freezer, heating, medication and water filters were some of their minimum needs. Larger equipment like ultrasonic sound machines for physiotherapy were also required to treat the vast amount of patients attending this centre.
The injuries sustained varied, it was like looking into an endless pit seeing the harm and destruction that had been caused to people who had been ordinary civilians, like any of us but caught in the cross-fires of war.
I cannot imagine, or even begin to imagine what these women have been through, I think this is one part of the trip that will never leave me. Women who had lost family members or had been injured, while still putting their families and the care for their children first, was hard to witness and endure.
We met, a 32 year old widow who had lost not only her husband but also her son. This lady was nursing her remaining child, a 7 years old, that was in need of heart surgery and a pacemaker. While living in a refugee camp, the outlook was bleak for this lady and her son. Another woman had her toes blasted off, and had spent 1,000 Lira to cross the border into Turkey but still needed to use any funds to obtain a prosthetic limb. The general consensus from speaking to these women was that they would rather pay for the complete replacement of joints than have to pay for or endure any long term treatment. Which is both very expensive and hard to source while the simplest medication is scarce.
Considering the few options that these people had left was very overwhelming as they faced difficult decisions every day, however we as the Human Appeal team endeavour to highlight the suffering of such individuals so that we may mobilise people who want to help.
When leaving the centre, we posed a question to the rehab coordinator, asking “is there a message or anything you would like us to tell the British and Irish people?” Her response was: ‘We want to thank the donors and everyone who is helping and volunteering, may God reward them, may His blessings always be upon them. But please, don't forget the injured, they are always coming in…They are in so much need – they don’t ask for more – they simply thank you for what they have. We pray that you don't ever see the things that we've seen"