Back in Syria he went to school, the family had a car, and lived in a house. In other words, he lived a life not dissimilar to my own 11 year old daughter and 9 year old boy.
This Christmas, he’ll be far from home and in desperate need. He is one of 975,000 Syrian refugees currently living in Lebanon requiring help just to survive; he is one of a total of 2 million children who’ve fled Syria, and 5.6 million children still within Syria, who need help. And that’s just the number of children.
I know, that’s a huge number. It’s too big to really get our heads around. We’ve all heard these statistics rattled off on the news. It’s simply awful. None of us can imagine having to go through this with our children.
Over the next four weeks, each Advent Sunday in the run-up to Christmas, I’m going to share with you the personal stories and needs of some of these children whom the international charity, World Vision UK are helping. This is based on a day I spent last week with a few other bloggers at World Vision UK’s London office last week, hearing all about their work across the region including Serbia, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and of course, Lebanon.
The idea is not to break your heart with more sorrow, but to put a face on this tragedy, even tell you some good stories, and give you the opportunity to help because we CAN do something, even if small.
So, have a look at this video of Salah, all 1 minute and 16 seconds of it:
Traumatised by the conflict and sights he saw, the Child Friendly Space that World Vision provides for children like him in his informal settlement is the only place he feels safe. Yet sadly, staff found out that shortly after this video was made, Salah’s father had sent him off to work to earn money. The weekly allowance that the UN World Food Programme has allocated to refugees has been cut from $36 to $12 (£9), meaning his family get only £63 a week. With the cost of living in Lebanon being commensurate with the UK, that’s simply not enough.
As we hurtle toward Christmas, do you, like me, have a growing sense of disquiet or discomfort at doing Christmas as usual whilst only 3-4 hours away by plane millions of kids go to sleep in sub-zero conditions under thin, make-shift tents? They are very far from home.
There’s many ways we can help. Donating money is, of course, one. Just £10 pays for a blanket, £14 for a coat, £51 can provide a winter care kit to a refugee child including shoes, socks and winter coat, and £68 can provide a welcome pack for a newly arrived refugee family in the Western Balkans including food, water, hygiene supplies, clothes and blankets, and access to a child friendly space where children like Salah have a safe place to play and learn.
We can donate by either straightforward donation here or by buying someone an alternative gift this Christmas by selecting one of the relevant gifts from World Vision’s Must Have Gift catalogue. Why not get a new mum in your life a month’s supply of nappies for someone else?
But we can also pray. When we have names and personal stories of refugees, it makes it much easier to pray for them.
We can also give our kids the opportunity to help. By encouraging them to give a little of their pocket money, or asking for a Must Have Gift as one of their many Christmas presents, we empower them to feel they can help, to feel human. I’ll be looking at that a bit more next week along with some heartwarming stories of what Czech students are doing with their weekends in Serbian refugee camps…..
You may already be giving or have given generously to another charity supporting refugees like Salah. Fantastic. But if not, or if you feel able to sacrifice a Christmas present for a Must Have Gift, please do go and visit World Vision’s donation page for Far from Home. Thank you.