Two and a half years into Syria’s war, Damascus is a dangerous place. Though its citizens try to lead their lives as normal - heading to work, waiting in traffic, going shopping - life is led against a backdrop of bomb blasts and shellfire.
And it is not just the soundscape that betrays the reality of Syria’s conflict. Military checkpoints are scattered across the city, and the economy is in freefall; the price of everyday commodities such as milk and bread skyrocketing. Many households in are overcrowded as people from other parts of the country have fled to the capital to seek refuge with friends and relatives.
“I just want to help people without asking who they are”
Last year, Mohammed moved to Damascus with the other SOS families when we were forced to close our Children’s Village in Aleppo. He had seen the widespread misery the war had brought to people in Syria, and wanted to help.
“When the relief programme began, I decided to help as a volunteer simply because I felt that I could do something and be helpful,” he says.
“I just want to help people without asking who they are. I saw a lot of people – children, young people and old people - in a very difficult situation.”
Mohammed’s commitment to helping others in Syria is inspiring. Despite the daily challenges of life in a warzone, he is determined to make a difference: “I was very happy because through the relief programme, we could help a lot of people. I think anyone is able help in the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and must act without thinking.”
“I don't fear the daily danger in Syria. I consider every day a new day”
Given the daily threat people in Damascus face, this attitude of unthinking compassion is astounding. Nobody is safe from the terror of war these days. Just this morning, two explosions near a TV studio disrupted a news broadcast, though fortunately staff at the station are reported to be unharmed.
Nobody is safe, and yet this 17-year-old boy is driven to help others: “You might not believe me, but I don't feel any fear. I know that I will die one day, so death is a fact that I can't change. For this reason I don't fear the daily danger in Syria. I consider every day a new day.”
Nevertheless, Mohammed wants things to change: “I don’t have fears, but I have a lot of dreams and hopes. I hope that I will pass my school year this year and then I want to study law.”
He speaks too of his sadness at seeing the effect the war has had on ordinary people. This is something he sees every day as he helps with the programme: “I felt a kind of sadness when I saw many children all living in a very small house, but I was happy when I saw them smiling when I gave them the school bags. I believe that education is very important, and I’m proud that SOS Children is helping internally displaced children and families.”
What are we doing to help?
This year, SOS Children has stepped up its emergency relief programme to help children and families as the crisis has deepened. Our focus at this time is on helping 16,000 children return to school as the academic year gets underway. We are providing financial support to help many of these children enroll in school, as well as “back-to-school kits” complete with all manner of equipment to help students ease back into academic life.
Another key priority is helping mothers and small children who have been forced to flee home by the violence. We are providing 4,000 cans of baby milk to infants in Aleppo, as well hygiene kits to help rural families in the Damascus region keep children safe at a time when normal medical services are absent. In total, we have reached nearly 80,000 people in Syria.
Will you help families in Syria? Find out more about our emergency appeal...