How to Help Syrian Children From Losing Their Childhood

Seven years later, civil war continues to loom in Syria destroying the world they once knew and tearing families apart. Millions of Syrians are living amidst unimaginable violence and uncertainty. 12 million people, over half of the pre-war Syrian population, are either internally displaced or have had to flee the country in search of safety. Furthermore, over half of all Syrian refuges are children and 2.8 million of these children are out of school. For children under age 8, war is the only life they know and their childhood has been taken away from them forever.

As a mother of two children, my heart is torn apart knowing about the dire situation for the children and families in Syria. SOS Children’s Villages has been on the ground providing a safe home, care for children and support for vulnerable families for more than 30 years. SOS began emergency relief programs in 2012 and currently operates in Aleppo, Damascus and Tartous. I have personally seen SOS Children’s program in Ethiopia and have been a huge supporter of their work ever since.

In light of the ongoing crisis in Syria, I am sharing a guest post written by Abeer Pamuk, a former SOS Children’s Village team member in Syria as well as more information on what SOS Children’s Villages is doing on the ground right now to help. 

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Mosebo Village Ethiopia

Three Girls from Ethiopia

Good things come in three’s.

Mosebo Village Ethiopia

Girls in rural Ethiopia

In June 2014, I had the honor of traveling to Ethiopia for two weeks with the International Reporting Project (IRP), a program based at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of The Johns Hopkins University that provides opportunities to US journalists to go overseas to do international reporting on critical issues that are under covered in the U.S. news media. The focus of the fellowship was newborn and maternal health as Ethiopia has made great strides in saving the lives of mothers and children under five.

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Mosebo Village, a remote village located about 42 kilometers outside of Bahir Dar in rural Ethiopia. Reaching the village is not for the faint at heart. It requires a land cruiser, patience, and a bit of adventure to cover the hour and a half drive on bumpy, muddy roads to reach Mosebo and see how over 90% of Ethiopians live. If it starts to rain as it frequently does during Ethiopia’s three month rainy season, the road becomes dangerous and impassable.

My visit to this village opened my eyes to the dichotomy of struggles and progress being made for millions around the world, and has instilled a passion for doing whatever I can to raise awareness of the world’s challenges in regards to global health, nutrition, inequality, women’s rights and empowerment and more. I read books on religion, politics and culture. I watch documentaries and listen to the latest podcasts to educate myself on what is going on. I seek out alternative media sources as opposed to mainstream media to get a better understanding of terrorism, poverty, education and child marriage.

Far away from Africa, in my home in Minneapolis I often wonder about this trio of children I photographed in Mosebo Village. Are they still healthy? Are they in school? How is their family doing and the community around them? What will their future be?

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Interview with Dr. Hawa Abdi of “Keeping Faith Alive”

“Dr. Hawa Abdi is the fiercest, most compassionate frontline humanitarian and doctor on the planet. The story of her extraordinary life, which defies imagination, instills courage in each of us” – Eliza Griswold, journalist and author of Tenth Parallel

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Portrait of Dr Hawa by Pieter Hugo.

Last week I received an email from ONE Moms, a nonpartisian group I work with as a Community Partner to advocate against extreme poverty, that an inspiring humanitarian, doctor and human rights lawyer was coming to town. Dr. Hawa Abdi known as “The Mother Teresa of Somalia” and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee was coming to Minneapolis to speak on the release of her recent book co-authored by American writer Sarah Robbins, “Keeping Hope Alive” which is an incredibly moving memoir about how Dr. Hawa along with her two daughters has helped 90,000 of her fellow Somalis remain safe, healthy and educated for over 20 years during a time of intense turmoil, violence and destruction in Somalia.

I had never heard of Dr. Abdi or her work before yet I was immediately fascinated. The thought of one woman saving so many people’s lives by building a hospital and a community of over 90,000 people in her backyard during an extremely dangerous civil war seemed unfathomable. I had to hear her story.

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Outside a popular Minneapolis bookstore where I heard Dr. Abdi speak on her moving, unbelievable memoir.

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