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Syria conflict: “What I have become is something I never imagined”

“I used to have long straight hair and a yellow dress that I liked. I wish I still had that photo because it’s the only proof I had of who we used to be,” says Samira
“I used to have long straight hair and a yellow dress that I liked. I wish I still had that photo because it’s the only proof I had of who we used to be,” says Samira

Eleven year old Samira used attend school every day and dreamt of being a doctor. When civil war broke out in Syria, her family was forced to move from war-torn Aleppo, and now scratch out a meagre living sorting through rubbish in a town on the coast.

Samira’s hair has been ruined by lice, her clothes are torn and she lives in fear of violence in a half-finished building – the blackened walls betraying the impact of war – far from her former happy home in Aleppo.

Flowers in the dark

“There is a lot of rubbish in this place,” she says. “I tried to grow some flowers to add some colour to my room but they kept dying in the dark. I learned that a flower can’t live among rubbish or in the darkness. I wish I had that photo of me standing beside my house in Aleppo now. I used to have long straight hair and a yellow dress that I liked. I wish I still had that photo because it’s the only proof I had of who we used to be.

“People now despise me whenever they pass by me. I wish I could scream loudly to tell them that I have a lady of colours and flowers inside me and what I have become now is something I never ever imagined and is beyond my control.”

Children like Samira are unable to attend school because it is simply too dangerous to travel. Ahmad Mahmoud Hussein is leader of the SOS rural Damascus field team: “Children are interrogated at the various checkpoints and if it emerges that their parents support the wrong side, the consequences can be dire.” Children are putting their lives on hold to focus on survival and helping their families to earn a living when they should be learning, playing and planning their futures.

Reaching besieged neighbourhoods

The civil war in Syria has entered its fifth year and the situation is still dire. Entire neighbourhoods are besieged and access to food is increasingly difficult. We maintains lines of communication with both sides of the conflict and, as a neutral organisation, distribute food to families trapped by the conflict.

SOS team member sits with a girl in Damascus, Syria
As well as providing food for 15,000 people, the SOS team are supporting vulnerable children in child-friendly spaces
As part of our drive to ensure no family goes hungry this year, around 15,000 people have already received food baskets, including Samira’s family. Food baskets help to alleviate the pressure to provide in times of food scarcity. We also provide child-friendly spaces which so far have given over 4,500 children a safe space in which to draw, join theatre groups and play music.

Reaching the hardest hit

There is little hope that the conflict in Syria will be resolved soon, with both sides in stalemate and no sign of compromise. With uncertainty and fear of violence becoming the norm for so many people, the winter clothing, mattresses, blankets and school kits we have provided, along with food baskets and support through child-friendly spaces, provide a vital lifeline for people who have suddenly found themselves with nothing.

Ahmad describes how we are able to help Syria's most vulnerable people: “Because SOS Children has been on the ground for a long time, and people in the affected neighbourhoods know us, both sides of the conflict know that we are neutral and help everyone.”

We can do none of this without supporters like you. Please give today:

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