We are excited to share this report from Nuna at TM Lebanon. When you give to Syrian Earthquake relief here, 100% of the funds will be given to this effort.
Trip Into Aleppo
On the 6th of feb 2023, the day of the earthquake, as I was looking at the news that was coming out of Turkey and Syria, I watched with horror the destruction, the injured, the dead, and I thought, we should go there. We should help. When we shared that we’re going to go, I was pleasantly surprised that so many people wanted to join us in going to Aleppo. We formed a small group and started our drive towards Damascus as a first stop. We only took some baby formulas, some milk packs and some water purifiers tablets and filters and headed up the snow caped mountains on icy roads.
We started off by going to Jaramana to visit the church there, the community center and learn how the earthquake impacted everyone. We met people who were displaced because of the war trying to gather from their little belongings to send to the earthquake area, we met people who are looking for ways to volunteer and cook for newly displaced families who are taking refuge in Jaramana.
The level of fear and of despair was quite high. We spent the night in Jaramana in a convent where it was freezing cold, with no electricity, and no heating. The second day we rose up early to start our travels towards Aleppo. The drive is 4 hours and a half. The first major city we crossed was Homs and even after 8 years of being freed from ISIS, Homs is still a mix of death and life. Streets and whole neighborhood are still destroyed and the rubble has not yet been removed. It seemed like time was frozen there.
We continued our drive from there and for more than a hundred kilometers we saw village after village along the way toward Aleppo completely deserted. Not a single soul was anywhere to be seen. Just grey cement houses with no doors, no windows, full of holes and completely inhabitable. These villages were taken by ISIS, people had to flee and fierce combats was happening there. If it wasn’t for the Russian coming to the rescue with airplanes, I think ISIS would still be there.
During this trip I understood so much of the refugees situation. The people who fled to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. When I used to talk to some of them I would encourage them to go back and the common response is: “What will I go back to? My house is completely destroyed!” And now I can say that I am a witness that even if people really wanted to go back to one of those villages in the countryside of Aleppo, and even if they decided to repair their home, there is literally no one there. No electricity, no shop, no neighbors, no school, no business, nothing. The whole country is in need of rebuilding. Going on with our trip we reached the city of Aleppo. The city is divided between areas under the Syrian government and areas controlled by rebel groups. We were shocked to see that life is going on as usual for many of the residents there (restaurants filled with people, hotels filled streets crowded) though hundreds of thousands are homeless. On the night of the earthquake at 4:17 am everyone rushed to the streets in their pyjamas in spite of the rain and freezing cold . people took refuge in schools, churches, mosques. Then little by little people started to return to their homes if their houses were not too badly damaged. The destruction in the government controlled areas is not as bad as the one in the rebel areas. We could not visit those areas as we are forbidden to do so.
We also learned that the humanitarian aid is also not allowed to cross to the rebel area. People had to try to rescue family members with their bare hands, with no help, and no heavy machineries to support them removing the rubble. There is a lack of everything in those areas. Children do not have access to milk, food is extremely expensive and the level of destruction is quite high.
Most of the buildings that were destroyed during the earthquake were so because of several factors. The first is that the buildings were already damaged because of wars, missiles and bombs, the second is that because of economics, some people are now building with not enough steel or a very bad quality of cement, the third is that basic civil engineering principles are not put in place where some people chose to remove a pillar to get extra space or build a 3 story building when the foundations are designed for one.
This does not lessen the fact that hundreds of thousands are now left without homes and are depending on aids . We’ve seen people living on the streets and trying to warm themselves with a fire on the sidewalk, some who are living in the back of a van, some in shelters and schools and all suffer to survive.
One of the huge problems is the lack of fuel. People are allowed 20 liters every 25 days , and at a certain point in December, schools universities and administrative offices had to close down for a week for lack of transport. Electricity is rationed and people have 2 hours of power a day. On the brighter side we’ve also visited a communal kitchen serving 10000 meals a day. The communal kitchen has set their operations in the front yard of a cemetery. And we even got the opportunity to help out with the preparation of a meal. We also visited many churches who are doing an amazing job trying to provide for people, trying to provide a shelter, food, or any kind of assistance. The outcome that we came up with after assessing the ground is that the main need that is not really covered is baby formula, diapers, food and of course shelter.
We have made contacts with many people /ministers on the ground who are already working and we could partner with them to make those distributions to chosen beneficiaries.
For those of you who would like to support the work in Syria please DO NOT SEND funds to the TRUST BRIDGE FUND as we cannot receive any fund that is assigned to Syria there.
However, TMM and pastor Keith has offered to receive funds for us that are assigned to Syria. These donations will be tax deductible. Please contact me directly for more information.