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Syria: Leaving everything behind in the struggle to survive

Syria: Leaving everything behind in the struggle to survive

Syrian women like Asma find it difficult to accept charity. “It brings shame on the family,” she says. For generations, farming families like hers took pride in the quality of the produce they grew. Increasingly, though, charity is the only way to survive.

On this occasion, Asma is accepting a gift of dried food from a sixteen-year-old boy from an SOS Children’s Village. The gift is offered in what she and her family now call their home, a corner of a cramped school building where mattresses, blankets, bags and a heap of personal belongings are all that remain of their former life.

Until recently, agriculture was a way of life for eight million Syrians. Life may have been hard, but for Asma it was a livelihood of which she could be proud. The absence of modern irrigation methods meant that, when the rains failed, they suffered. It was a combination of toil, resistance and the support of a strong family network that kept them going through tought times.

“We lived day-to-day,” says the 30-year-old mother-of-five. “It was hard, but it was a decent life.”

child sponsorship in Khan El Assal, Syria

A livelihood lost

This decent life was the only means of survival for women like Asma. Rural society has always been deeply patriarchal, and Asma was one of many uneducated tenant farmers without any land of their own. Now the war has forced them from it, they have nothing: no money, no property, only the few small possessions they have brought with them.

Asma and her family left their rural home for Damascus when the fighting became so intense that she feared for their lives at every moment. “Every day I was afraid I would wake up to find my house on fire. I was always expecting to receive bad news; that something bad had happened to my husband,” she says.

“I never went to school. Now that we are in the city, I can’t work to support my husband. All I can do is go from one charity to another collecting aid.”

A tough choice

The choice faced today by people like Asma is that between survival and dignity. Asma is just one of roughly 4.8 million people forced from their homes in Syria, many of whom are seeking refuge in other countries. The only way to avoid starvation is to swallow generations of pride and accept the support of strangers.

“I don’t want this future for my children,” Asma says. “They deserve the chance to continue their education and have a brighter future than mine. I will do all I can to make sure my daughter can stay in school.”

Ghaith, the boy from the SOS Village who gave Asma the gift of food for her family, is acutely aware of how lucky he is. “Sometimes we feel different from other children. We are lucky. After seeing so many children displaced with nowhere to go, I want to help, I want to give more.”

Syria - Mohamed and his familyHelping the most vulnerable survive

Children and staff from our Villages in Syria are supporting the effort to help those affected by the war. As a charity, SOS Children has delivered emergency relief to more than 5,700 people, providing food, clothing and shelter to those forced from their homes by the conflict.

We are committed to ensuring the most vulnerable people survive the violence and that mothers with infant children are able to ensure their babies are well-nourished and healthy during this most fragile time in their lives.

So far, the civil war has caused mass upheaval and disruption to the lives of many of the most fragile families in Syria. Soon, SOS Children hopes to be in a position to help 15,000 of these people regain some of the stability they enjoyed before the conflict began.

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