When I came to Syria for the first time in 1997 to conduct survey work for an archaeological excavation, this wonderful land was instantly strangely familiar to me. Maybe this was because as a child in Libya, where my father was the branch manager of a German construction firm, I had played every day for several months with Libyan children in the streets. We understood one another, even without knowing each other's language. But maybe it was because of the colors and fragrances, the sounds of the cities and villages, the splendor of the old buildings and the wonderful bazaars, the cordial encounters with cheerful people, or the truly original hospitality of the Bedouins of the Syrian Desert. Whatever it was: ever since, Syria has not let go of me. Over the many times I've visited, I've learned to appreciate it in a new way.
All the more did the consequences of the conflict in Syria, which began in 2011, bedevil me. Having to watch how so many places known to me became the scene for military conflicts --how more and more people had to abandon their destroyed houses and wander around without protection -- was very difficult to bear. With a few others who had likewise known Syria for many years, I founded the association SyrienHilfe e.V. in 2012, which brings together doctors, teachers, archaeologists, engineers and artists who are willing to get involved and organize direct humanitarian aid and emergency relief within Syria with the help of local volunteers.
Already back then, many Syrians had become homeless due to the increasingly aggressive hostilities. Today, more than four million of them are registered abroad as refugees, most of them in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Almost eight million Syrians, however, are refugees within their own country, moving back and forth between combat zones trying to survive somehow in these inhuman circumstances. Making this movement possible and to do so in a way that they do not lose their dignity has been a concern for us and our Syrian assistants from the beginning.
For example, every month we prepare up to 300 care packages with staple foods. But instead of calling for them to be picked up, our Syrian volunteers bring them to families within Syria. On that occasion, they also ask if something is missing, if others need help, what the problems are. If births are expected in the families we care for, the women help each other and share their excitement about the newborn life. We accommodate families in apartments and help wherever possible. Thanks to our donors we also were able to launch some self-help projects.
Speaking of our donors: it is really incredible how many support us with their donations, but also by supporting charity concerts or public lectures by renowned archaeologists! Without the small and large donations we receive from Germany, Switzerland and across the entire world, we would not be able to help even in the slightest bit. We could not distribute food, pay rent, build wheelchairs, distribute winter clothes and blankets, provide medical aid. It is truly magnificent how much all these people help us. And it feels good to experience the support and to recognize that we, but especially the Syrians, are not alone in our efforts!
Not just observing the suffering of the people in Syria, but being able to do something to alleviate this suffering, makes it easier for me and all who contribute to these projects to bear this situation. However, our innermost wish is that Syria and its population will finally find peace.
The association SyrienHilfe e.V will take the first #GivingTuesday in Germany to raise awareness for the people of Syria and to collect donations in order to provide humanitarian and emergency aid to Syrian refugees as well as for various self-help projects and education projects.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the 92nd Street Y, founders of #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that will take place this year on December 1. These stories highlight the work of organizations and people around the world who are committed to giving back and doing good this #GivingTuesday.