In the face of crisis, we all see someone we love
Written by Plan International Canada Program Manager, Madeline Baker
Plan International Canada Program Manager, Madeline Baker, in Jordan.
When I was working in the Middle East, I met with a number of Syrian refugees. I met one family I remember in particular, who was living in Jordan at the time. They left most of their family and friends behind in Syria to escape the bombs going off around them. The family was living in a small room with only a carpet and few cushions. They had no furniture or heating, and with temperatures dropping well below zero, they didn’t know what they were going to do. To make matters worse, they were not allowed to work legally in Jordan, so they had no idea how they were going to survive.
They invited me to stay for food, but all they could offer were tomatoes and onions, what they had been living on for months. During the whole conversation, which was being translated from Arabic to English, the grandmother of the family was sobbing uncontrollably. Finally, our translator turned to me and said: ‘She is sad because you remind her of her daughter who she hasn’t seen or heard from in over a year in Syria.’ I hugged the women and said I was sorry…but it wasn’t enough.
What it means to be a refugee
Although I work in aid and development and hear many of these stories every day, this moment really brought the crisis to life for me. It was like looking into my own grandmother’s eyes and seeing her pain – the pain of losing family members to a hopeless war which she has no control over.
While the wars we see on the news are in many far-flung areas of the world, it’s hard for people to turn a blind eye. Most recently, media coverage has shed light on the massive number of refugees fleeing war in Syria and taking the treacherous journey by boat to Europe. It’s obvious that something needs to be done to support these families and bring an end to the crisis.
A young Syrian refugee child in the arms of her father.
Why Syrian refugees need our support
Currently, more than 12 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. It's estimated that more than 7 million people are internally displaced within Syria and 4.2 million are now seeking refuge elsewhere. Looking at these figures, it’s hard to comprehend how terrible the situation is, but the crisis will only get worse.
If we don’t take action, conflicts will worsen, we will see more smuggling and trafficking, and more deaths across the Mediterranean, and other dangerous crossings. In addition, millions of children are losing their youth and their education. These mass movements are causing a lot of instability around the world and if we can play a greater part in supporting refugees, both within Canada and abroad, we will help reduce this instability and create a safer world for everyone.
The part Canadians can play
We should all be aware of what’s going on, and understand that we can play a part in preventing these terrible acts. When it comes down to it, people want the same thing – a safe and healthy home for their families. And I think most Canadians can sympathize with this.
I hope Canadians and people around the world realize these families are just like our own. Grandparents, sons, daughters, husbands and wives – they’re all going through an extremely traumatic experience. If we can provide support to these refugees, to ease their pain or provide them with a safer place to live, we can play a role in helping those who need it the most.
How Plan International is supporting the crisis
We are responding directly to the needs of Syrian refugees in Egypt, working with Syrian refugee families by providing humanitarian assistance, including food and shelter, opportunities for education and psychosocial support.
We’re working with partners to provide assistance in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and we’ve deployed emergency response staff in Jordan and Turkey to assist with refugees in both countries.
Plan International’s working with Syrian refugee children to ensure their education is not disrupted.
In Germany, Plan International is responding to the needs of refugee children in Hamburg through our partnership with humanitarian agency, Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe (St. John Accident Assistance). Plan is training Johanniter staff on the specific needs of children, training staff on our child protection measures and psychosocial support for refugee children.
Our priority is protecting the rights of refugee children affected by the crisis. With your support, we can help children access their right to a better future – one without war and violence.