Celebrating the Strength and Resilience of Refugees on World Refugee Day

“I remember a really rainy and cold night in Eko Camp in Northern Greece. I had forgotten my jacket as the rain poured on my back. Suddenly, I stopped feeling the rain as something covered my shoulders. I turned around to find a refugee without a jacket because he had taken it off and laid it on my shoulders. I took it off right away to give it back but he refused to take it. I could not believe how giving the refugees I met were after they had lost everything.”

EKO Camp in Northern Greece. Photo: Ben Sager/Syrian American Medical Society Foundation
“I took it off right away to give it back but he refused to take it. I could not believe how giving the refugees I met were after they had lost everything.”
Mohammad Jamal Deen in EKO Camp in Northern Greece. Photo: Ben Sager/Syrian American Medical Society Foundation

Mohammad Jamal Deen, who shared this moment with us, volunteered with SAMS Medical Missions in both Lebanon and Greece. A Nurse Anesthetist from Chicago, Mohammad is one of the many volunteers who have joined SAMS in Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to provide quality care to those displaced by conflict.

During his time at the EKO Camp in Greece, Mohammad was often the only medical provider for a group of 3,000 people. He recalls one night at the camp, when a frantic father ran toward him, asking for help with his daughter’s pain.

“I rushed over to the tent to find his 17-year-old girl wincing in pain with her hands on her lower back area. I asked what had happened, and in full English, she proceeded to give me the most thoroughly detailed medical history I had ever received in my eight years of being in healthcare.”

“I met many doctors, nurses, paramedics, teachers, carpenters, artists and many other skilled professionals, who also happened to be refugees.”

Mohammad quickly learned that at just 17, this girl was a second-year medical student in Syria. She hoped to complete her studies as soon as she was able to leave Greece.

“I met many doctors, nurses, paramedics, teachers, carpenters, artists and many other skilled professionals, who also happened to be refugees,” Mohammad said.

Refugees face unique challenges in displacement. At the heart of many of these issues is lack of access to adequate education, healthcare, livelihoods and stability. The crisis in Syria has had a multi-generational impact whose effects are most pronounced in the youngest generations of Syrians.

  • About six-in-ten Syrians are now displaced from their homes, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • More than 75 percent of Syrian refugees are women and children.
  • According to the UN Children’s Agency, the Syrian conflict has reversed 10 years of progress in education for Syrian children.
  • According to a recently released report by Save the Children, at least 3 million Syrian children under the age of six have known nothing but war and violence. This has contributed to “toxic stress” seen in young children and prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In 2016, SAMS provided 325,354 health services to refugees in Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. In addition to providing high-quality, dignified care, we work to share the stories behind the word “refugee.”

On World Refugee Day, we celebrate the moments of kindness and resiliences that we’ve experienced in our work with refugees and internally displaced people. We continue to stand #WithRefugees. Join us.

Here are a few ideas of how you can play a role providing support to refugees:

  1. Volunteer on a medical mission with SAMS. Everyone can play a role in providing care — in addition to physicians, we accept photographers, videographers, translators, and medical students.
  2. Support the construction of our new multi-specialty facility at the Al-Zaatari camp in Jordan. 80,000 refugees reside in Al-Zaatari camp. The health needs of the camp’s population are complex, and access to health care is strained. Refugees face a lack of consistent care for chronic and acute conditions. Support our clinic to ensure that we can provide consistency of care for refugees in Al-Zaatari.
  3. Share stories and raise awareness! Use social media to share stories and articles with your networks about the challenges faced by refugees. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to read stories on the ground.
  4. Support our medical missions by donating to SAMS today.
Photo: Ben Sager/Syrian American Medical Society
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