Sometimes in life, we get to reflect on what we’re doing and what we’re a part of and celebrate that we get to do something that really matters and makes a difference. I don’t know about you, but that helps me go to bed with a smile on my face and wake up with energy.
For the past few years, I have been working alongside my colleagues to bring aid to refugees who have fled Syria and Iraq in search of safety. This crisis has been called one of the greatest humanitarian crisis’ of our lifetime. It’s my opinion that there isn’t a “calling” needed to respond to this situation. We must simply respond.
A few years ago, as my colleagues and I looked at this desperate situation, we asked ourselves how we could leverage what we’re good at to bring hope and restoration to people who have literally lost everything and have been driven from their homes. Many organizations have responded with food, water, medicine, and blankets. This first wave of relief literally saves lives. After this first wave of desperate need was met, we began to look at the lives of displaced people and ask ourselves how we could be helpful in saving their future. Education is the expertise that we bring, and education is a critical component to helping displaced people reestablish their lives.
If displaced people desire to ever return to a normal life and seek a profession that will lift their family from their desperate circumstances, then they must continue their education.
We found that many school-age children had been out of school for years; and some of them had never been in a classroom before due to the war and devastation in their home country.
I’ve sat with university-age refugees who were weeped because they had to flee Syria before they could receive their high school diploma. They are desperate to go back to school.
We have found that providing education and schooling to these kids and adults is a way of providing dignity to their lives. In a small way, it is providing restoration and — in some ways — making them whole again as we see them laugh, smile, and even sing.
It is the privilege of a lifetime to know that I get to be a part of reshaping lives, restoring dignity, and offering hope.
The people I have met and shared meals with along the border of Syria and inside Iraq are the kindest, most hospitable, and most generous people you can imagine. They are funny, witty, smart, caring, strong, and resilient. I cannot express how grateful I am to call them my friends.