Rahaf Abdo
Silas Crews

Portrait of Rahaf Abdo.

Even after the fighting began in other parts of Syria, I was not afraid in Deir Attieh.

I went to the university, saw my friends and attended lectures. I would see my family when they came home from work. Maybe I would go to my grandfather and grandmother and go walking. In Deir Attieh, anyone could go outside at any time. A girl could go outside at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. It was not a problem.

Our town had become home to about 15,000 people who had left Damascus, Homs and other cities to escape the fighting. Then, in November 2013, Deir Attieh was attacked.

After the first big explosion, I told my parents, “I can’t live here. I think I will die from fright.” We lived in the basement for a month. I was so afraid of dying, and I missed my friends who died.

The worst thing now, even months later, is that I feel afraid of everything.

I am afraid to take a taxi alone, because I am afraid some fight will happen and I don’t want to be alone. If I take the bus, I sit near the center, not near the windows because that seems more dangerous. At the university, where I now teach, the government soldiers carry weapons. We are afraid the other army will come to fight again. If we hear strong voices, we go away from them.

“I no longer want to leave Syria. Helping people makes me want to stay.”

Even though I am afraid, I want to help people in Deir Attieh, like some of my friends did during the fighting — taking food and water to people who needed it.

Since the invasion, people struggle to get enough food to eat. Companies have closed, stores and rental properties were destroyed, prices are higher and the money is less.

Through Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (an MCC partner), I was asked to go door to door to survey people and assess their food needs. It is not just the meat that is the most expensive thing that they can’t buy. It’s the fruit, vegetables, milk and cheese. Some people say they go to sleep hungry. It’s very hard to hear.

I don’t want to see one of my people, the Syrian children, die because they cannot eat food. I no longer want to leave Syria. Helping people makes me want to stay.

One of the good things of the war is that people help each other, and the young people think in a different way. Before, the young people just thought about playing or doing something funny. After the attack they think in a serious way.

It made us grow very fast.

Rahaf Abdo, 23, teaches college courses in computer technology and volunteers with Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue (FDCD). Through FDCD, MCC provided food for 2,910 families in Deir Attieh for six months after the attack with funds from its account with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.