Volunteers who work with Jesuit Refugee Service express their hopes and concerns for the future of Syria. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
(Beirut) February 14, 2013 – Despite the worsening situation in Syria and the exodus of thousands of people daily to neighboring countries, there are still many Syrians who remain behind to assist with the humanitarian effort.
Working entirely with Syrians, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) relies on local networks of volunteers who give much of their time, energy and skills to assist with our efforts within Syria’s borders.
Hailing from all walks of life, with different ethnicities, religions and socio-economic backgrounds, these volunteers are focused on the goal of assisting and serving people severely affected by the conflict.
"If you could understand my family life and see how I was raised — what I am doing now, all these different people I work with – it was something unimaginable. Yet we all work together without any problems," says Loujain* a volunteer.
Moreover, none of the volunteers have been immune to the conflict. Many are displaced themselves, or have lost family members in one way or another – either due to violence or displacement. Some volunteers risk their lives daily to come to-and-from JRS centres or to ensure that children are safely escorted home after activities.
"Daily I hear stories from our teams inside Syria that amaze me. The work they are doing is extraordinary, they are dedicating themselves to those in need, putting others first," says a staff member of the JRS International Rapid Response Team (RRT).
"Humans first." Emphasizing this aspect of their work, Fr. Fouad Nakhla S.J., the Project Director in Damascus says the volunteers focus on people as complete human beings, rather than someone who needs only a food basket or a blanket.
"We treat people as individuals, and they appreciate it. We have to preserve people’s dignity."
Providing emergency support in the form of food, shelter and winter clothing is crucial, but at the same time JRS accompanies people who have lost everything and experienced great trauma.
"It is important to listen when nobody else wants to listen to them, Syrians caught up in the conflict feel abandoned by everyone," said JRS Assistant Regional Director in Damascus.
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) works in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, providing emergency relief and educational and psychosocial services to internally displaced persons, as well as refugees from Iraq who remain in Syria.
*The person’s name has been changed to protect their identity.
by Zerene Haddad
Middle East and North Africa Communications Officer
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