Millions of Syrians have had to flee from their homes over the past five years, escaping violence from the war, and leaving behind the lives they once knew.
“People know very little about refugees, there’s a massive detachment,” said von Toggenberg to the Huffington Post. He spent the last ten years working on refugee issues with the World Economic Forum, the UN and the Red Cross. “They’re just normal people. What we don’t understand is that there’s so little choice for them. If any of us went through an experience like that, we would run away, too.”
More than 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced internally due to the conflict, and 4.8 million have been forced to flee the country. Many are living in camps in neighboring nations, some on the border, where they can see home from afar.
While at the refugee camps, von Toggenburg found one of the biggest problems was the lack of opportunities for Syrians to work, study or contribute in some way.
“There aren’t jobs,” von Toggenburg said. “And for education, there was only kindergarten. You end up with a whole generation that will lose years of learning. Refugees are our shared responsibility. The important thing is not to look away.”
These eight photos show how Syrians, now refugees, saw their lives upended by the conflict.
1. This Family Took Just One Suitcase, Leaving Everything Behind
"We lived in Damascus and I worked as a carpenter. Our house was hit by several bombs. We had to run away with only one suitcase." -- Suher, from Damascus
2. He Suffered A Job Setback
"Two years ago, I opened a shop here with second hand clothes. I used to have a lovely shop for women’s clothes in Aleppo." -- Said, from Aleppo
3. These Parents Are Unsure How Their Kids Will Be Educated
"Our children can go to a kindergarten nearby, but there is no education after that." -- Eid, from Raqqa
4. He Was Once Thought Of As Rich
"I used to have more than 50 sheep and was considered wealthy in my village." -- Khader, from Ariha
5. This Large Family Now Lives Together In A Tent
"We live in this tent with nine children." -- Khader, from Ariha
6. This Young Man Has To Abandon School To Go To Work
"When the war started I had not completed my high school. I am working here in the camp as a hairdresser. It earns me a small amount of money." -- Mohammed, from Damascus
7. Parents Of An Inconsolable Child Feel Helpless
"Our little girl seems to be always sad. We don’t know what to do to change this." -- Suher, from Damascus
8. And She Just Wants A Fair Shot At A Better Life
"Don't give me a fish! Please give me a fishing rod." -- Sara, from Raqqa
H/T World Economic Forum.