MCC photo/Emily Loewen

MCC Canada executive director Rick Cober Bauman talks with Hannah*, a volunteer with Charitable Society for Sustainable Development (CSSD), who helps implement an MCC food distribution project in Damascus, Syria. Many of the volunteers also have been displaced themselves and many are students who help provide relief while continuing to study at the university. *Name withheld for security 

Providing relief in Syria is complicated. In a country still at war, distributing food and other household supplies requires people who understand the constantly shifting context.

In Damascus, one of MCC’s local partners Charitable Society for Sustainable Development (CSSD) works mostly with young Syrian volunteers. CSSD helps distribute the monthly food packages funded by MCC through its account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. (Learn more about the project here).

The volunteers do interviews with families to determine need, they distribute the supplies and they collect stories to share with donors from around the world. Many of them do this work while still studying at the university.

We spoke with four of the young volunteers, Nour Farkouh, Rania Al-Zahr, Louay Farkouh and Fadi Barhoum, to hear about their work, why they do it and what they’ve gained through the experience.  

Photo courtesy of Nour Farkouh.

Why did you want to volunteer with CSSD:

Nour:  It is the worst feeling to see somebody who is in need and you cannot help him or her. It is also the worst moment to see a war victim on TV, wish to go to them at least to console, only to stay at your place without doing anything. You volunteer, trying to get experience, training and the right way to be able to go to that person and help them professionally.

Rania: It is a work which words cannot describe: You give without taking. This is a great thing. It is a good work as long as we are able to give to people who are waiting for even a very small thing.

What is encouraging in the volunteering work is that there is no competition and no self -interests. All of us are giving because we like to extend assistance with a lot of joy, especially when you see the joy of one of those who receive the benefit.

Photo courtesy of Louay Farkouh.

What encourages you in the work?

Louay: The team spirit, the spirit of love, the love of others who are in need, especially under the circumstances of the war we are in.

Nour: The phrase "may God give to you, so you remain able to give to us.” The call and prayer of anybody who has benefited from our work. The laughter on the face of a child after an activity—sometimes his tears when the activity ends and then he says to us, "When are you coming back to us again?"

Fadi: The smile reflected on the faces of the beneficiaries is one of the most significant and important reasons that motivates me to continue. The mutual confidence among the members of the team is also important.

Photo courtesy of Rania Al-Zahr.

What have you learned through your work with CSSD?

Nour: I learned a lot from the society: I learned how to deal with people and how to work with children. I learned that any wrong act done by a person is often a result of an event that happened to him before.

I acquired skills and experiences from a group of trainings. The goal of the CSSD was and still is to qualify us and give us training and skills in order to provide the service properly.

Rania: I learned many things which made me appreciate the experience of volunteering. I learned patience, to give unconditionally and not to be materialistic. I learned many things, new ways of communicating with people, for working with children. I learned, and learned and I will always keep learning.

Of course, CSSD provided and is still providing many opportunities to examine ourselves and gain responsibility. After many courses, I imagine myself able to be a leader in the places that need me.

Louay: I learned many things. I learned the idea of volunteering and humanitarian action. And of course, I learned much about leadership.

Photo courtesy of Fadi Barhoum.

What do you hope to do after the conflict is over in Syria:

Nour: Hunger and poverty do not come to an end with the end of the war. Those whose homes were destroyed and those who are living in tents will remain in need of assistance even when the war is over. But the difference will be in the fact that in addition to basic assistance they will need help to change their thoughts and the melancholy impressed on their minds during the war. They will be ready for a training on bringing up children, people will need more knowledge, education and science. They will need assistance in searching for a work. And I hope to help people arrive at a stage at which they will be able to leave the tent and go back to their homes.

Rania: When the crisis comes to end, I dream of seeing a child's laughter when they don’t feel fear from the blood, from the weapons they’ve seen. I wish we could work more with the children who were affected by the war. I wish we could provide a safe area where they can grow up with the message of love away from hatred and killing. I also wish we could help the youngsters to achieve their ambitions and find job opportunities.

Louay: There are many things we wish to do after the war. We want to help people who were injured both psychologically and physically in this war.

Help mothers who could not under the circumstances of this war learn how to deal with their children. Hold workshops and initiatives with specialists for their awareness and knowledge of how to support their children.

We want to help provide job opportunities for men who could not secure food for their families and for young men who need education to get work in the future. 

We want to provide workshops to help remove the thoughts of killing and war from people’s minds.

Fadi: I will do my best to take part to achieve the reconstruction of Syria using my work as an IT engineer. And I want to help with developmental projects for the beneficiaries, the cornerstones of the foundation of the restoration of Syria.

We are so grateful to all the local volunteers that help MCC carry out our relief work. Donate to our response in Syria to help continue providing life-saving supplies to those in need.

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