We have officially closed out the winter and early-spring projects to assist Syrian refugees here in the Middle East. I want to extend a hearty THANK YOU! to everyone who so generously gave to help these refugees. That you would be moved to give of your own resources to help total strangers who do not know you – and may likely never even meet you – is an expression of compassion and faith that we thank God for. We are thankful for all that God has supplied this winter through prayer and the generosity of both strangers and friends contributing to the small TGI efforts.
A Quick Roll Up
Here is a quick by-the-numbers roll up of the majority of the tangible aid provided, not to include spiritual aid and ministry amongst the number of refugees. This is primarily provided for the sake of those who contributed to this relief, as it seems right to report back the general amounts of things you all helped to get in the hands of needy refugees:
- 30 steel kerosene or wood-burning heaters to heat refugee dwellings
- 600 kerosene fuel vouchers for monthly heating oil needs for families
- 60 heavy winter jackets (usually one per family distributed)
- 59 thick fleece blankets to refugees and impoverished mountain families
- Assorted amounts of dried milk and baby food tins for families with children
- Acquisition and distribution of various ministry materials
The refugees we met and helped through the resources provided were all extremely thankful. There were many opportunities to share among them the love of God that compels us to help these total strangers in their distress. Several are also actively attending church ministries that were coordinators of the relief aid with us. Many of these people are the poor of the world. Despised in their host nations as generally un-welcomed intruders, they have no hope for the future and bitter, haunting memories of the past from the nation they fled. Many of the men here work 12-18 hours a day to get $400-500 dollars a month to provide the bare minimum needs for their families, being generally abused and overworked by the nationals here who exploit this cheap source of labor. However if the men were to return to Syria, the great majority would be quickly conscripted into the Syrian Army and forced to fight on the front lines, likely to be wounded or die in the horrific conflict unfolding there.
As the winter fades and the weather is quickly heating up, the needs have shifted to more general, steady family needs such as food, medicine and education. We have four future projects we are working on to launch this summer, and a few of them are already in their initial stages with a few families being helped as the administrative and logistic needs to back these programs get worked out in order to handle more.
- Food Assistance Program: Sponsor refugee families each month to provide food vouchers for locally owned grocers that will provide reasonably-priced food staples for them, and enable us to keep families accountable on food voucher use.
- Education Assistance Program: Sponsor refugee children to enable them to go to schools to continue their education while displaced. For many, the monthly costs of transportation to school (bussing is NOT free here) and the semesterly costs of books and uniforms, are a prohibitive burden on refugee families. Subsequently children are uneducated and can be more easily exploited as beggars, child labor, or worse.
- Medical Assistance Program: Provide monthly assistance to refugee families to acquire medications for their chronic medical conditions. Numerous refugees have diabetes, heart problems, asthma, and other conditions that worsen quickly without medications. Often they have to choose between medicine and food.
- Practical Skills Training: Provide hands-on training from skilled instructors on practical skills to enable refugees to better provide for their own needs. Potential skills include teaching them English as a second language (a VERY practical skill for many here), providing sewing instruction for the women, and possible technical repair training or computer skills for others.
Our desire with the first two “Assistance Program” projects is to have individual families be sponsored here by individual or group sponsors abroad, in order to establish a regular commitment and relationship between the refugee families and those providing help. We plan on monthly follow ups with each family in their homes, a required monthly meeting as a group to share needed information with them and minister to their spiritual needs, and also encouraging foreign sponsors to write them a letter each quarter that will be translated and delivered to them.