During the Syrian Revolution, a great many groups were spontaneously formed to help Syrian citizens and refugees and provide them with basic assistance. This is a quick inventory of some of these groups.
Hand in Hand for Syria
Hand in Hand for Syria is a UK-registered charity that was established in 2011 at the start of the Syrian uprising. It is a non-political organization funded by individual donations.
The charity’s aim is to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the uprising in Syria; this includes people still inside Syria as well as those who have fled to neighboring countries.
It is based in England and also includes a field office in Lebanon which manages all local supply and delivery of aid into Syria. It is one of the few charities currently able to get humanitarian aid into Syria and regularly provide food and clothing to around 3450 Syrian families, some of whom are refugees at the Lebanese border.
It has also sent medicines and medical equipment into Syria to support doctors working in civilian field hospitals. These secret facilities have been set up in areas where it is too dangerous to take victims to government hospitals or where the hospitals have been closed down. These field hospitals are very basic and have little equipment or medicines. By sponsoring one of these hospitals, Hand in Hand for Syria has been able to deliver vital medical equipment and medicines to those who are desperately in need.
It is also currently developing online training for medical staff in Syria and UK volunteers to teach them how to perform life-saving surgery in the conditions of war.
Nurses and doctors prepared to treat injured civilians are scarce inside Syria because of the severe consequences they face if they are found out. The organization knows of medical staff who have been detained and had their homes destroyed.
Some of Hand in Hand’s volunteer doctors have been inside Syria and others have worked on the Lebanese border areas. They have had to treat people hit by the army's heavy artillery, the majority of injuries being bullet wounds, but increasingly they are seeing the impact of fallen buildings and secondary infections from untreated wounds.
They have also had doctors working with Syrian refugees in Jordan. They provide medical and psychological treatment to victims of torture and rape, and to those who have witnessed these actions committed against others. Using a special technique, psychiatrists from the UK have been able to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder in an effective way, and teach this technique to local psychologists and psychiatrists in Jordan.
The organization has made available photographs of some of the aid that has been delivered into Syria as well as firsthand accounts given by the doctors who have been working with Syrian refugees.
Sooriat for Development
Sooriat for Development is a non-profit organization, formed in France temporarily for reasons of force majeure; it will inevitably move to Syria after the fall of the regime.
Sooriat for Development works through a network of volunteers covering the land of Syria, especially in the areas and sites that witnessed great calamities during the revolution, and will operate in three stages.
Establish small economic enterprises for women who have become the main breadwinner for their children as a result of the bombing and deaths. The relief provided by these projects should be developed into something long-term, and the organization will follow up projects to ensure women their economic independence, preserving their dignity. The focus of these projects is on rural Syria and towns.
This stage begins with concurrent economic projects, contingent upon the fall of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and continues operations from the same towns that began the project, with the same women entrepreneurs, focused on two goals:
1. The establishment of development and rehabilitation courses for women to increase their economic productivity
2. The formation of a joint team of women, representing a group of notable towns and villages, to contribute to civil peace movements
This stage, which also begins after the fall of the regime, includes:
Follow-up to ensure the preservation of women's rights and the development of the laws relating to women in the constitution, given the concerns by many of the possibility of ignoring the issues of women and marginalizing them after the fall of the regime. Furthermore, the organization will be working with a human rights group for the formulation of a new personal status law, consistent with the social and cultural spirit of the Syrian society, which preserves human dignity and freedom and allows women to participate effectively and democratically in public life.
Workshops on this matter will be held between several Syrian parties, from the religious to the secular and liberal trends, to reach a working formula to guarantee the rights of women.
It is necessary to emphasize that the human rights section in the organization will turn into a center of research and studies, concerned with the reality of women and family life as a whole. It also will begin, and continue to work, as a non-profit institute.
Such work, in conjunction with disarmament concerns that may be associated with the fall of the regime, imposed by the characteristics of the political reality and the Economic and Social Council, and accumulated over decades of abolition of the state of citizenship and civil rights, is the only way to maintain the value of the revolution.
The Syrian Humanitarian Relief and Development Institute (Najda Now) was established to support the Syrian society during this overwhelming crisis, taking into consideration developmental, health and humanitarian aspects, so that it can come out of this crisis and start building a modern democratic civil state.
The institute’s strategy focuses on the health sector, providing direct financial support and housing as required by emerging circumstances in a professional and planned way. It also works towards caring for sustainable development, which means raising awareness so that users of its services can become self-reliant rather than developing a dependency on the service provider. This requires the service provider/institute to work with the clients on raising their self-esteem, self-trust and self-confidence. It also requires them to work with the clients on understanding the crisis, its causes, circumstances and ways to overcome the obstacles they are faced with as a result of the crisis as well as assisting them to discovering their inner strengths, resilience and resources by employing a ‘strength-based approach’. In addition, the institute focuses on education, eradicating illiteracy and providing vocational training. It is also concerned with all health needs associated with malnourishment, child protection and care, and the availability of clean drinking water.
To implement this strategy, the institute welcomes any unconditioned assistance from local and international organizations.
Najda Now works on providing assistance and aid to the affected population, the victims of natural or man-made disasters and victims of armed conflicts and wars, regardless of race, religion, political belief or ideological convictions.
Najda Now carries out its work with complete neutrality and impartiality and with noble human morality. It is committed to extending a helping hand and demands the full freedom to work unhindered in the exercise of its functions anywhere.
Members of the organization agree to respect professional ethics and maintain complete independence from all political, economic or religious forces.
The members of the Najda Now foundation and its volunteers are fully aware of the risks to which they may be exposed during the implementation of their duties. They pledge not to ask for themselves any material or moral recompense beyond those forms of compensation that may be offered by the Najda Now foundation when the foundation is able to afford it.
Larissa Bender: President of the Board of Directors of the Najda Now International in Germany. She is a German Orientalist and translator, as well as a journalist specializing in Syrian affairs. She has translated the works of a number of Arab writers to German, including the diary of Samar Yazbek about the events in Syria. She is currently preparing a book about the events in Syria in German titled “Syria: The Hard Way to Freedom”.
Abdel Aziz Al Aidy: Vice President and General Manager. He is German of Syrian origin, a journalist based in Germany and working for several years in the social and humanitarian field in Lebanon and Germany.
Dr. Hussein Shawish: Vice President and supervisor of the psycho-social support project in the Najda Now.
The Union of Syrians Abroad
The Union of Syrians Abroad was founded to meet the growing needs of the Syrian population. Delegations from all over the world travel to the country to help relieve the needs of those in emergency situations.
The Union of Syrians Abroad consists of people of Syrian descent from 21 different countries: France, Austria, Germany, Romania, Spain, Cyprus, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and the United States, among others.
It includes not only individuals but also organizations such as the Higher Commissioner for Syrian Relief (Arabic). It emerged as a response to humanitarian needs on the ground as a result of the regime´s crackdown against civilians. A hospital (mentioned below) is one of the latest projects but there are many others that you can find on the Spanish delegation’s website: www.unionsiriosextranjero.es/
Contact in Spain: Nasser Omar De Mora and Leila Nachawati Rego
Hospital in Syria
For more than two years now Syrians have been demanding changes in the country, after decades of repression. Their demands have been met with unprecedented brutality. Tens of thousands have been killed and countless others wounded. The situation is dire and there is a big need for medical care, especially for those in need of surgery.
In its last visit to the country, The Union of Syrians Abroad reached an agreement to open a hospital that specializes in surgery inside Syria. They need your help to get it up and running.
The hospital is located inside Syria, one kilometer from the Turkish border. This will be the first hospital in general and orthopedic surgery to treat the wounded, especially those who have suffered amputations.
It will have an estimated capacity of 12 to 15 beds, plus an emergency service and ability to make timely revisions.
The Butterfly Effect
Butterfly Effect is a theatrical humanitarian project that was established by the actors Jalal al-Taweel and Louise Abdulkarim in 2011. The psychotherapist Dr. Jalal Nofal joined them later. The project targets children who have suffered as a result of the conflict in Syria. The children are treated through:
· Interactive theatre and psychodrama
· Release of negative energy through handcrafts and arts such as painting, sculpture, photography and writing
· Teaching through fun
· Removing the remnants and effects of war through love
After the excellent results of the project on the psychological level, it became obvious that the number of children on the project should be increased. This has created a good basis for cooperation between the members of the project and the Tomorrow Is Ours center in Shatila camp.
The team comprises a Syrian actor and actress, Jalal al-Taweel and Amal Omran, as trainers. Psychotherapy is provided by the center's doctor.
The workshop started on May 1, 2013 under the supervision of Taweel and Omran. They chose 20 children between 5 and 15 years old. Work began with fitness and flexibility exercises to stimulate the children to express themselves freely and create an atmosphere of cooperation among them. The workshop, which was designed to treat children psychologically through theatrical work, lasted for one month.
“Tomorrow Is Ours” Center
“Tomorrow Is Ours” was launched at the beginning of November 2012 with a workshop by the Syrian sculptor and artist Wissam Maasaas. The objective of the workshop was to attract young Syrian refugees between the ages of 12 and 16 in Shatila to prepare the center. Mr. Maasaas taught each of the participants how to measure spaces and areas in addition to dealing with wood and devising practical solutions.
The workshop lasted for 45 days. The young participants prepared the place to include multi-partitioned rooms by using wooden frames pulled with special cloth for painting so that these partitions became large two-sided canvases ready to be drawn on as an introduction to hold further drawing and painting workshops that will involve children of different ages. The work also included the construction of a library to save the books, toys and games for the kids, a theatre, and a space for activities, in addition to providing some basic furniture such as assembled wooden tables to facilitate mobility and good quality seats in the waiting area.
This furnishing workshop was followed by another workshop that was held by Instructor Salem Yassin, who worked on the training of the staff/volunteers on how to deal with children and devise special methods to communicate with them. Mr. Yassin educated the staff members with some games and songs that have contributed to creating a spirit of creativity within each member in order to be able to support the children physically and psychologically.
The staff today have become the active and primary ingredient of the center, through their communication with the children in particular and with parents in general, in order to monitor the extent of development and progress of each child, whether in practice (activity in the classroom, on the playground, with friends, with teachers) or psychological (where most refugee children suffered from psychological crises resulting from war and internal conflict).
The number of children enrolled in the center so far reached 200 children. They were divided into three age groups:
• Children aged between 4 and 7 years attend from 8 AM until 10:30 AM.
•Children aged between 8 and 11 years attend from 11 AM to 1 PM.
•Children aged between 12 and 15 years attend from 1 PM to 3 PM.
The approach used for these three categories involves two things: interactive activities and direct teaching.
1. Interactive activities are designed to stimulate the imagination and memory of the children and help them discover their talents and express desires freely, in addition to promoting and supporting the relationships among children and creating a spirit of companionship as each and every one of them becomes part of the whole. Such activities include:
– Story-time with Rania: Ms. Rania once a week reads a story with children between the ages of 4 and 7. The reading is followed by discussions and art activities inspired by the story. The aim is to support the child's imagination, stimulate memories and create an atmosphere of harmony among children.
– Film screening for all groups: The objective of this activity is to entertain children and bolster their scientific and cultural knowledge by showing films about the lives of animals and the protection of the environment as well as films that tell stories about their different cultures.
– Drawing for each group: Drawing always goes a long way in expressing wishes, dreams and ideas that are difficult for the child to deliver otherwise. Hence, drawing has a vital role to play as the gateway to enter the child's world, allowing others to detect and observe all the experiences the child has been through.
– Handicrafts for all groups: Handicrafts initiate the spirit of creativity among children, teaching them how to make use of material well and take advantage of discarded materials in an innovative and even useful way, either to play with or for decorative purposes.
– Songs: The importance of a song comes from its role in creating a lively and vital spirit in children, in addition to being an important means to express the psychological inner state.
Theatre: Drama revives children's imagination and pushes them to enter into a world that they are actively involved in, painting the details and choosing the personalities they love. In this context, the center always strives to integrate the child with theatre work and allow room for his/her personal freedom to choose and write scripts and songs, with the assistance of the theatre specialist.
2. Direct Teaching: Staff teach children specific hours of English and Arabic in addition to mathematics in order to help the children maintain a level of education to be ready to go back to school when it is possible. The center also seeks to contract specialist teachers of the aforementioned subjects in order to add quality to their work and increase support for children.
Out of a desire to provide the best for the children, the Najda Now International has coordinated with specialists in the fields of theatre, music, puppets, drawing, crafts, such as:
– Amal Omran: She is one of the first graduates of the Higher Institute of Dramatic Art (Damascus), an instructor of the institute and an actress.
She actively holds theatrical sessions with the staff every Saturday and Sunday in the afternoon from 12 PM until 4 PM. She also works with the children on writing and directing some theatrical plays.
– Mohammad Imran: He is a graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts (Damascus), a sculptor living in Paris. He held some free style drawing and painting sessions with the children for a week that resulted in lots of paintings that decorated the walls of the center later.
– Hani Sawwah: A Syrian rapper who held a workshop with the children that included writing lyrical texts and giving them tunes. He has helped to discover and support a lot of writing talents among the children.
– Mahmoud Hourani: He is specialized in puppet theatre and shadow theatre and founder of the “Artistic Residence in Beirut” project.
– Joan Zero: A Syrian caricaturist, he held an artistic workshop with the children that sought to translate the wishes of children and their ideas through free drawing and direct interaction among the children.
– Lina: A Syrian director, she performed some private sessions and meetings with the children so that she moves them to a space of freedom that expresses their dreams and wishes for the future. This workshop is designed to produce a short film that tells indirectly the impact of the conflict in Syria on the Syrian children and their world of dreams.
In addition, different international volunteers have approached the center to help the children learn English in accordance with a simple approach that builds on the previous information of a child and prevents an educational gap.