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Resilience in the Face of War

#10YEARSSYRIA

Stories of Syrians

March 15th marked the grim milestone of 10 years of war in Syria. 

This brutal conflict has forced an estimated 11 million people to flee their homes, caused more than half a million deaths and injured many more. 

These numbers trip off the tongue all too easily but the truth is they aren’t numbers, they are people. Extraordinary people whose lives have been upended and who, despite incredible hardship, are overcoming extreme challenges on the road to recovery. 

People like Hassan, a little boy who, following months of hard work and determination, learned to walk again after a devastating injury. There’s Rana, a mother who fled Syria to Jordan, giving birth unassisted in a school along the way, and who now works to support her family. And Dr Nassif, a Syrian pediatrician who stayed in Syria when few other doctors were left, determined to help any way he could. 

In observation of this anniversary, we bring you the stories of these remarkable individuals and many more, as we redouble our commitment to supporting them on their journey. 

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© Danielle Villasana

“I made it my goal that my child must walk again.”

Hassan lost both of his legs when a bomb hit the bus he and his family were on as they tried to escape the Syrian city of Aleppo. When they finally made it to Turkey, Relief International’s specialist clinic made him a pair of prosthetic legs and, with months of hard work and determination, Hassan learned not just to walk, but to run and play again.

Hassan lost both of his legs when a bomb hit the bus he and his family were on as they tried to escape the Syrian city of Aleppo. When they finally made it to Turkey, Relief International’s specialist clinic made him a pair of prosthetic legs and, with months of hard work and determination, Hassan learned not just to walk, but to run and play again.

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“I told myself that there was no one else, so I had to gather my strength”

Before the war began, Yara, like the majority of Syrian women, was supported by her husband and a strong family network while she took care of the home and their children. The war changed all that and forced Yara to find ways to support her family alone. She now works as a librarian in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

“I would love to send a message to any single mother out there who doesn’t have support, to be strong and to have hope in the future.”

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“I’m strong and no longer afraid”

Rima’s mother was pregnant with her when she fled Syria to Lebanon, where she was born. But she didn’t escape the trauma of war. After hearing clashes that took place in Lebanon in 2016, Rima started having frequent nightmares and, after a Relief International outreach volunteer visited their home, Rima started treatments with one of RI’s psychologists.

“I used to be scared of kidnappers, gunshots and thieves. But now nothing bothers me. She helped me.”

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“Since getting a job, our life has completely turned around”

Rana lived a comfortable life before war broke out in Syria but when the fighting began, her life changed overnight. She fled with her husband and children to Jordan – giving birth to her daughter without medical assistance in a school where they had sheltered along the way. Today, she lives in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan and works in Relief International’s Early Childhood Development center.

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“I needed to be strong, and tough and patient so that I could cope”

Bayan’s leg was amputated after she was injured in a bomb blast. She’s been fitted with a prosthetic leg which helps her to move, but it’s her own inner strength and patience that have helped her to adapt and recover.

“It has not been easy, but I think you learn patience so that you can cope.”

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“If I leave, there will be no one left”

Since the start of the Syrian war, many hospitals have been targeted and destroyed. Many doctors have lost their lives or fled the country. Dr Nassif Sarraf, a Syrian pediatrician, decided to stay. He was only doctor at his hospital until Relief International took over management and brought in support.

“I believe in humanitarian values. I want to help the people of my province. So I must stay.”

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“Hope returns to a child when they can walk again.”

Fatima, a Syrian refugee herself, works at Relief International’s specialist clinic, a modest but miraculous center in Turkey. Located just one mile from the border with Syria, this clinic provides life-changing prosthetics and orthotics as well as extensive physical and psychosocial therapy to refugees who have suffered complex war injuries. 

 “When we help a child to walk again, we return the laughter to them.” 

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Twelve-year-old Rahim Al Sayyah participates in Relief International’s Cash for Education program in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Elie Gardner/ RI.

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An Inside Look: Delivering Healthcare in Northern Syria

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The Invisible Injuries of War

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“We educate women because it changes the world”

Relief International Social Worker Fatima Abdul Wahed hosts a one-on-one session with Aasma in her home. Elie Gardner/RI

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jordan-earlymoments-hero-02072020-1.jpg

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Early Moments: The Youngest Syrian Refugees Learn Through Play

Randa holds her son Jasem, 2, in front of her makeshift shelter in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Elie Gardner/RI

Lebanon

Cash Assistance Helps Meet Syrian Refugees’ Most Urgent Needs

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Twelve-year-old Rahim Al Sayyah participates in Relief International’s Cash for Education program in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Elie Gardner/ RI.
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Relief International Social Worker Fatima Abdul Wahed hosts a one-on-one session with Aasma in her home. Elie Gardner/RI
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Randa holds her son Jasem, 2, in front of her makeshift shelter in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Elie Gardner/RI
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Bayan’s Story: Finding the Strength to Recover

jordan-education-covid19-hero-03312020.jpg

Coronavirus: “We are concerned that this pandemic will disrupt refugees’ education”

Twelve-year-old Rahim Al Sayyah participates in Relief International’s Cash for Education program in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Elie Gardner/ RI.

Cash for Education Keeps Refugees in School

syria-story-270819.jpg

An Inside Look: Delivering Healthcare in Northern Syria

invisible-injuries-of-war-9102019-e1570626147237.jpg

The Invisible Injuries of War

20190409-ri-jor-zaatari3-huda-5930-scaled.jpg

“We educate women because it changes the world”

Relief International Social Worker Fatima Abdul Wahed hosts a one-on-one session with Aasma in her home. Elie Gardner/RI

Displaced and Distressed: Delivering Mental Health Support in Arsal, Lebanon

jordan-earlymoments-hero-02072020-1.jpg

Early Moments: The Youngest Syrian Refugees Learn Through Play

Randa holds her son Jasem, 2, in front of her makeshift shelter in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Elie Gardner/RI

Cash Assistance Helps Meet Syrian Refugees’ Most Urgent Needs

Timeline of Our Work Supporting Syrians

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A Decade of Support

2011

15 March 2011 marks the day protestors march in Damascus and Aleppo, part of a wave of uprisings across the region known as the Arab Spring. The movement quickly escalates to armed conflict between the government forces and several armed militia groups.

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A Decade of Support

2012

Relief International launches its first Syria response through a project aimed at meeting immediate needs in the country.

“Relief effort for Syrian refugees in Syria-Lebanon border, March 2012” by İHH İnsani Yardım is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. View a copy of this license here.

Iman walks through the informal tent settlement where she lives in Arsal, Lebanon. Elie Gardner/RI
A Decade of Support

2012

Relief International’s teams in Lebanon begin providing humanitarian assistance targeting both Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese populations across the sectors of water, sanitation and hygiene and basic needs.

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A Decade of Support

2013

We launch our first Syrian primary healthcare response. In the years that follow, health will become the largest component of our work to provide support on the ground in Syria.

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A Decade of Support

2013

Following the large influx of Syrians across the borders into Jordan, Relief International establishes a remedial education program in Za’atari refugee camp to support students adjusting to new subject matter in the Jordanian school systems. The program also includes career counselling and life skills components to support the young people in the long-term.

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A Decade of Support

2013

Cross-border operations from Turkey focus primarily on providing health services to meet Syrians’ immediate needs.

Relief International's Cash for Education Field Assistant Layal Al Sayed leads a homework support group once a week for two hours in an informal settlement of Syrian refugees in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Elie Gardner/RI
A Decade of Support

2013

In Lebanon, we broaden our programming to include health and education services for vulnerable communities.

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A Decade of Support

2014

Our teams expand their Syria response to include essential water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

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A Decade of Support

2014

Relief International brings its education program into the newly established Azraq refugee camp to support the growing number of Syrian refugees entering Jordan.

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A Decade of Support

2014

We launch a cash assistance program in Lebanon to support Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon. Through this program, struggling families receive a monthly cash transfer to support them to cover their basic needs.

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A Decade of Support

2015

We begin running programs to support agriculture and livelihoods activities in Syria.

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A Decade of Support

2016

We significantly expand our health programming as security is heightened when facilities are damaged or destroyed by airstrikes. Relief International, in coordination with local stakeholders, relocates some of the Relief International supported health centers as the frontline in the war changes, to maintain services for displaced populations.

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A Decade of Support

2016

Our drop-out education program launches in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan to help the growing number of young Syrians who have missed more than three years of schooling and cannot rejoin public education programs. Students in this program can earn a 10th grade education certificate, from there they are eligible to sit their finishing exams or enter vocational training.

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A Decade of Support

2016

We begin providing mental health services to Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Centers include psychologists, psychiatrists and special needs experts specializing in working with children who are suffering from developmental delays resulting from the trauma of war. Our teams in Turkey also begin providing prosthetics and physical therapy to refugees who have suffered serious injuries as a result of the war.

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A Decade of Support

2016

Our healthcare response in Lebanon shifts to support primary health care centers and integrates malnutrition screening and mental health mentoring into the services offered.

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A Decade of Support

2017

By 2017, more than six million have fled their homes and are living in temporary shelter within Syria due to the conflict. Nearly three million people are displaced in 2017 alone. We expand our life-saving operations to include more specialized health services through static and mobile clinics for the most vulnerable Syrians.

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A Decade of Support

2017

With large numbers of refugees suffering from complex war injuries and amputations, Relief International expands its work to support physical therapy as well as the provision of prosthetics and orthotics, at two sites in Turkey – at one center just one mile from the border with Syria and a second located in Istanbul.

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A Decade of Support

2017

Relief International introduces its pilot Cash for Education project to support Syrian refugee children’s retention in schools in Bekaa, Lebanon.

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A Decade of Support

2018

We support an influx of new families into areas of Syria where we work with mobile medical teams, emergency medicines, and safe drinking water.

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A Decade of Support

2018

Following students’ low pass rates in the Tawjihi exams, the general secondary education certificate examination in Jordan, Relief International begins an education program targeted specifically towards students in their last year of study. After one year, 55% of students pass their exams, a significant increase from 2013, when only 2% of students passed.

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A Decade of Support

2018

Relief International opens its early childhood development centers in Azraq and Za’atari refugee camps in Jordan, providing childcare services in order to help improve retention rates of young women in education programs.

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A Decade of Support

2018

We expand our mental health teams in Lebanon to provide specialized and non-specialized mental health services to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities.

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A Decade of Support

2019

Relief International expands its remedial education program to vulnerable communities living outside of the refugee camps in 17 schools across four governorates within Jordan.

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A Decade of Support

2019

By 2019, Relief International is supporting refugees to recover both physically and mentally from trauma through comprehensive physical therapy and psychosocial support in five cities across Turkey and helping provide prosthetics and orthotics in two.

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A Decade of Support

2019

We support older Syrian refugees in Lebanon with integrated physical and mental healthcare services and cash assistance to help cover the costs of additional health needs.

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A Decade of Support

2020

To support the many Syrian refugees living with disabilities to return to the workforce, Relief International begins providing job placement support, entrepreneurship training and employer incentives in Istanbul, Turkey.

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A Decade of Support

2020

We expand our cash for education program, providing conditional cash assistance to severely vulnerable households in Bekaa, Lebanon. We integrate mental health and psychosocial therapy and homework support groups to help ensure children’s retention in schools. And we launch a program integrating child protection and livelihoods to help combat child labor in North Lebanon.

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A Decade of Support

2020

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Relief International teams in Turkey deliver food and hygiene kits as well as cash assistance to help refugee families provide for their basic needs. In Istanbul, Relief International delivers community health interventions, including raising awareness and understanding of Covid-19 safety measures.

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A Decade of Support

2020

In Lebanon, Relief International distributes health supplies, and personal protective equipment to aid in prevention and early detection of Covid-19. Community health workers check on patients isolating at home and our mental health program provides support to patients and their families.

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A Decade of Support

2020

In Jordan, when the Covid-19 outbreak forces schools to turn to online learning, our teams bring education programs to students in the refugee camps via online platforms to ensure Syrian refugee students do not experience interruptions to their education, yet again.

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A Decade of Support

2020

To help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Syria, our frontline health teams support health facilities and communities with personal protective equipment and supplies and raise awareness of preventive methods including hand washing and distancing measures.

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A Decade of Support

2021

In March 2021, we observe the 10-year anniversary of war in Syria.

Our teams continue to work tirelessly to support the hundreds of thousands of Syrians across the region. Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, our work continues safely as we support Syrians and their host communities through this challenging period.

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2011
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2012
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2013
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2014
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2015
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2016
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2017
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2018
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2019
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2020
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2021
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Help make a difference

The resilience illustrated here comes from a place of remarkable determination in each of these individuals. But with your help, we can make that process just a little bit easier. By supporting Relief International, you can get mental health support to a child traumatized by war. You can support a young refugee’s education. You can help a family begin to rebuild their life and their future. You can make a difference.

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