Nadine Shah releases song for Syrian refugee children’s medical charity

“Watch the new video here

Singer-songwriter Nadine Shah has today released a new recording of her song Holiday Destination as a “birthday present” for Inara, a charity which gives medical support to refugee children affected by war in Syria.

The British musician is hoping the young charity’s second birthday will be an occasion to celebrate its work, taking in children that no-one else can help and fully financing their medical treatment and logistical costs.

Inara helps children like Mohamad, whose face was badly burned when his family’s home in Homs was bombed. Just 12-months-old, the deep scar tissue became infected and hardened, pulling down on his face so much that he couldn’t close his eyes and could barely eat.

“The hardest part in all of this, in my life, has been seeing my son’s suffering and being helpless to stop it,” said Mohamad’s father, Abdul-Rahman.

When his family arrived in Lebanon, Mohamed was operated on by Inara’s Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, who detached Mohamad’s lip from his chin and broke down the scar tissue so he was able to close his eyes once more.

Mohamad’s burns prevented him
from closing his eyes [Inara]

“Mohamad can now speak better, eat better,” said his father. “Now he has less of a burden on him.”

Music with a mission

Holiday Destination, from Shah’s new album of the same name, delves into the stories of the refugee crisis, with desperate people washed up on the shores of Mediterranean islands filled with wealthy tourists.

“My brother, Karim Shah, is a documentary maker,” she told The New Arab. “He made a documentary called ‘No Strings’ four years ago, and was on the border between Syria and Turkey, in Gazientep, in a refugee camp there, and I made the music for his documentary — and that’s why I started making this album.

“At the time, I wasn’t even aware there was a civil war going on — super ignorant — but I didn’t know! A year later, it was front page news because of things happening in Calais and migrants and refugees arriving into Kos and making that treacherous journey — then all of a sudden it’s front page news. 

“So I started making this album, and my brother was talking to a friend of his, Imran Khan — not the cricketer — and Imran was a fan already and didn’t know that my brother was my brother. He put us both in touch and Imran told me all about Inara and the work they were doing.”

“There was never a doubt that we would work together after we spoke… By helping a small charity like Inara, Nadine has shone a unique and important spotlight and will help to raise awareness of children injured in war”

Imran Khan, Al Jazeera English correspondent and volunteer consultant for Inara, takes up the story:

“Working with an artist like Nadine, who effortlessly mixes current affairs and music without sounding preachy or patronising, has been a joy,” he told The New Arab.

“When I met Nadine, we talked at length about the Syrian war, the refugee crisis and about innocent children caught in the middle. There was never a doubt that we would work together after we spoke. Nadine had read as much as she could, she met with refugees and people like me who had first-hand knowledge of the issues. What Nadine has done that politicians and humanitarians haven’t is take an artistic look — and through that bring all this to a wider audience. That’s crucial. 

“We can become blind to sheer amount of information we see on the news. By helping a small charity like Inara, Nadine has shone a unique and important spotlight and will help to raise awareness of children injured in war.”

“Last year, Farah’s life was changed for ever. The barrel bomb that killed her little sister in a blinding flash left her with one arm severed just below the elbow”

Inara, based in Beirut, doesn’t just give injured children some money and walk away. When they take on a child’s case, they follow through with the child until they’re safe and well again, and have everything they need to thrive — often in a new environment. But while the charity has helped dozens of youngsters, not all cases are yet closed.

Last year, Farah’s life was changed for ever. The barrel bomb that killed her little sister in a blinding flash left her with one arm severed just below the elbow. Her young body was covered in shrapnel wounds and burns.

Farah’s life was changed forever by a barrel bomb [Inara]

Farah received first aid at a local field hospital, but her wounds were too severe. Doctors in Turkey struggled to save her injured foot and Farah was returned to Syria.

“We always knew from the beginning of the war that we would have to leave eventually, but we just didn’t have the money,” said her father. 

“We kept putting it off. But after that day, when I lost my youngest daughter and saw all of my children hurt and in pain, I knew that we couldn’t wait any more.”

When the family arrived in Beirut, Inara arranged for a consultation with Dr Amir Ibrahim at the American University of Beirut Medical Center. 

She will need surgery on her right foot, and a second surgery on her left knee to repair the damage done to the muscle there. A third surgical procedure will be performed on her right hip. A small piece of shrapnel still sits in her left ear, which will need removing. And a final operation will be needed on her amputated arm to stop repeated infections.

“We really hope that it will introduce our work to a whole new audience, and in turn help us to grow and expand so we can help more children in need”

Inara was founded in 2015 by CNN International correspondent Arwa Damon. Based on her experiences working in the field, she wanted to create a non-profit organisation to respond to gaps in medical care for refugee children.

Shah’s new music video, which you can watch below, highlights some more of the refugee children Inara has helped.

“I cannot thank Nadine enough for this beautiful gift to Inara,” said Damon. “We really hope that it will introduce our work to a whole new audience, and in turn help us to grow and expand so we can help more children in need.”

Story continues below video

In two short years, Inara has helped 79 refugee children and spent just under $270,000, donated by people all around the world, on providing medical treatment.

“There are so many great charities that I’ve been working with, spreading the word about them and trying to get people to donate money,” said Shah. 

“But Inara was a smaller one I was never aware of — and they’re doing such vital, vital work, providing life-altering medical care for children from conflict areas. When there’s children who are the victims of war, it’s probably the most harrowing part of war, because they’re completely innocent. I’d seen the work Inara were doing — some of their amazing success stories, and if I had thousands and thousands of pounds, I would donate them in a second — but unfortunately I don’t.

“But what I can do is donate my time and use my voice as a platform to spread the message of the work that they’re doing, hopefully encouraging people to donate.

“If I had thousands and thousands of pounds, I would donate them in a second… “

“One thing I’m starting to realise… is that news is a form of entertainment, and what’s really shocking is that this is no longer front page news. There’s another story — Donald Trump writing something stupid on Twitter, or it’s Brexit — so the reason I’m talking about this is that we have to keep reminding people that it hasn’t ended, it’s still ongoing — and in some situations worse than it ever has been because there are fewer people donating. 

“So all I’m asking people to do is to remember that it’s still ongoing, and that their money and their support is still needed and maybe now more than it ever has been.

“And that’s what people can do to help — they can donate their time, whether its volunteering or spreading the message, and also donating their money if they can.”

Farah has great hope for the future, now she’s getting help. “I really hope that I can walk easier after these surgeries,” she said.

Her mother, too, is grateful: “I want to say thank you for saving my lovely child.”

You can help Farah, and children like her, by donating to Inara at https://donate.inara.org

And don’t miss Nadine Shah when she tours the UK in October. Details on her website: nadineshah.co.uk

James Brownsell

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