Human Appeal Ireland, Hatay, Turkey-Syria Border: Day 3

by Hajar Al-Kaddo

Day 3 Part 1

Perhaps it was the day Human Appeal visited local businesses that offered the most positive discernible lessons.  We visited several different havens providing jobs and resources for people who had been displaced, it was uplifting to see Syrians actively participating in the community after the sombre rehabilitation centre. It was humbling to see how lives had been uprooted so much by conflict, yet people had not lost their voracity for life here.

One of the places we visited was a charming local bakery who used tonnes of flour to bake over 1,200 bags of bread an hour, working continuously over 6 days a week. As an invaluable experience, we were able witness this process from start to finish, becoming spectators to the real-time changes our donors contributions made which supported local communities.

Never the type to shy away from work, the Human Appeal team and myself were also physically involved in the bread making process. We worked alongside men in Rayhanli who felt empowered once again and felt as though they were able to sustain and feed their families. Funnily, the young ladies in the team shocked the men with their strength and ability to carry 50kg sacks of flour. This in itself was gratifying, it was not even a physical burden, it felt as though it was an enjoyable obligatory act that brought much happiness and amusement.

We met a whole host of workers who were proactively trying to improve their livelihood by working in this local bakery, from former policemen to soldiers. Conversations with the solider particularly resonated with me as he relayed how difficult life was following his departure from the army; by leaving everything behind his family had a safe place to live, but by doing so, he lost his income and home. Not defeated by adversity, he showed us proudly his twin sons who had been born on the Turkish borders.  In a poignant gesture, he named his new-borns after those who had been killed from his family.

In light of the harm we had encountered, it was a marked shift from pessimism to know our assistance was assuaging a lift from a cycle of poverty. Seeing lives gradually being rebuilt meant my and all the teams hard-work at Human Appeal was worth it.

Staying strong and giving encouragement to these women was not just a challenge but almost a test of my convictions. Meeting children who no longer had homes or young women with beautiful faces, but artificial limbs reminded all of us that we still had a lot of work to do.  Truly we are created to serve these people and this is our purpose. 

Day 3 Part 2

The end of our trip and final visits culminated in the most emotionally draining and upsetting place; the Al-Alman Hospital. Caught in a juncture of exhausted medical staff and traumatised patients it was an exigent moment.

Patients ranged from civilian women who had been shot and men badly hurt by rocket blasts. Due to its proximity to the Syrian border, the pain here was very raw, the undue suffering and a grim outlook for the future permeated the hospital. To help the distressed patients one of the volunteers handed out rosary beads to which everyone was very grateful, it was like their day had been brightened by this small gesture that allowed a small return to ordinariness.

Exhausted doctors with bloodshot eyes would care for not only physically injured patients, but also the emotionally traumatised, some of the horrors from the border could not be unseen.

Rising to the challenge of ‘more than just words’ was truly tested when we met the Syrian families living in derelict buildings in Hatay. Barefoot children running amok in mud and rain, mothers with their hands extended following us around in need of more. Fathers and elderly men expressing what they had been through and how their only want was to go back home to their homeland. This reiterated the pivotal nature of our work. 

Although these disenfranchised families lived in poverty, something I realised afterwards is that these people, despite their conditions are still better off than anyone in a refugee camp.

To these families, who were living in makeshift rooms, where carpet was used to transform large open spaces into rooms or to create a sense of security in the form of doors, we distributed food and winter packs.

Importantly, this reinstated food security and protection for the changing weather conditions. As the threat of pneumonia and other cold-related illnesses became increasingly likely. Our work was very challenging but crucially it was impactful as we were meeting the families and their daily struggles and increasing worsening conditions first hand that we were daily fundraising for, back in our own comfortable worlds.

We must continuously donate our wealth, our energy, our time to serve the people of Syria, Gaza, the Philippines, and everywhere where there is hardship.

I believe, ordinary trips produce photos and are mediocre, extraordinary trips create teams, memories, and most importantly the realization of a joint vision. I am human appeal; my vision is the vision of human appeal and a vision of a better world created by more than just words.