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From teacher to emergency relief worker

Syria remains an incredibly difficult place to grow up
Syria remains an incredibly difficult place to grow up

Ahmad was once an English teacher, at a school in the Qodsaya district of Damascus, close to the SOS Children’s Village there. Many of the SOS children were his students. His classroom was a safe place filled with laughter. Today, he leads a team of emergency relief workers in one of the most dangerous places in the world; the rural Damascus region.

Ahmad became a teacher because he wanted to make a positive difference to the lives of vulnerable children in his local community. It was this same desire that led him to apply for a job with SOS Children’s Villages in 2013, following the launch of our emergency relief programme in Syria. Ahmad started out as a field worker, but thanks to his enormous commitment and his courage in dangerous situations, he was quickly promoted to team leader for the rural Damascus area. In 2014, he was chosen as SOS Syria’s ‘Employee of the Year’.

One of the most dangerous jobs in the world…

Instead of planning lessons, he now plans excursions into rebel held areas in order to accurately identify the number of internally displaced families and vulnerable children and determine what they need most, be it food, hygiene kits or household items. “Working in emergency relief is a new experience for me,” Ahmad explains. “I have to conduct full security, geographical and social assessments in cooperation with a local community representative before we go somewhere.” “Most of the areas we visit are controlled by rebel fighters. I have to coordinate truces between the different sides to allow us to deliver aid to the people in need so that we don’t encounter big problems.”

But that doesn’t mean that everything always goes to plan. Every visit comes with its own risks and challenges, something that Ahmad is acutely aware of. 

An emergency response worker in Syria
Working in emergency relief is a new experience for Ahmad

On a recent visit to deliver school bags to the rebel-controlled area of Al Mouadamia, he was accused of taking photos of military positions to give to the Syrian army. “Thanks to the training SOS Children had given me and my two years of experience in the field, I was able to handle the situation and get safely back to my team,” he says.

…but one of the most important

On top of his other duties, Ahmad helps a dedicated team find unaccompanied and separated children and ensures that they reach one of SOS Children’s temporary Child Care Centres. He also tries to spend as much time as he can with the SOS children. “I feel like something is missing from my day if I don’t see the wonderful SOS children,” he says. “The chats and laughs we have are my daily dose of optimism and never fail to make me smile despite all the challenges I face as a field leader.”

Ahmad thinks being a teacher was one of the most important jobs in the world, but he feels the same about his role as an emergency relief team leader. “Whenever I deliver much-needed items such as food, clothes or medicine to a family, I can’t describe how happy they look. I feel proud to be one of the people able to make these children smile and forget the war."

Our emergency relief programme in Syria is ongoing. Find out more about what we're doing and how you can help.