“We cannot all leave our country. We have to stay and help our people”Published: Aug 18, 2022 Reading time: 5 minutes
National aid workers, who work with NGOs in their home countries, often endure difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions in order to deliver aid to those in need. In countries like Syria, national staff form the backbone of PIN’s projects. To commemorate World Humanitarian Day, we spoke with three Syrian humanitarians who work with PIN.
Fahed has worked with PIN in his home country since 2020.
“As a humanitarian aid worker, I witness people’s needs and their difficult living conditions more closely,” said Fahed. “Had my work only been in the office, I would not have been able to see these things. While sitting in tents with [displaced] people, they feel comfortable when an NGO employee empathizes with their hardships. This increases my sense of responsibility towards these vulnerable groups, and I feel closer to them and their suffering.”
The path that lead Fahed to his career was a difficult one. One year into his university studies, the war began. Fahed did not return to his hometown for three years while he completed his education, and his family did not escape the war unscathed.
“In 2014, there was a massacre in my village. Four of my cousins were killed. After the massacre, people fled from the village, leaving it abandoned to heavy shelling and airstrikes. Recently, I watched a video of my village but I was unable to recognize it. A lot has changed due to the bombardment.”
But for Fahed, losing friends and family took a greater toll than losing his hometown. “It was hard for me to find my family displaced when I came back. Nothing can describe what I felt. I lost many friends. Some of them were killed while others were seriously injured. Also, some of them emigrated. These incidents had a greater impact than just losing my home.”
Rather than leave Syria, Fahed decided to stay and help rebuild his community that had been so deeply scarred by war. “I feel responsible for my community,” he said. “I believe in the goals of humanitarian work. We cannot all leave our country. We have to stay and help our people.”
Having studied solar power, Fahed put his knowledge to good use in the humanitarian sector. “There was no electricity and many hospitals, clinics, bakeries, and water pumps stopped working,” he said. “Gradually, we started installing solar power systems to pump drinking water. At this stage, I knew that People in Need was pioneering solar power systems so I applied for a vacancy at PIN.”
Although working in a conflict zone is challenging, Fahed is driven by an altruistic desire to help those in need: “I will continue to work as an aid worker as long as my community needs me.”
Before becoming an aid worker with PIN, Maram worked in a pharmacy in northern Syria. The arrival of the so-called ‘Islamic State’, and their brutal rule over her town, however, prompted Maram to leave in search of safety and a better life. When their rule finally came to an end, Maram decided to become a humanitarian aid worker to help those around her.
Maram’s life outside of aid work has been difficult, but it hasn’t deterred her from pursuing her mission to help others. “The war destroyed our present life and our plans for the future,” Maram said. “My mother became disabled because of the the panic, terror and fear that we endured throughout the war. Our family split up, my brothers dropped out of college and travelled abroad, we left our house and all the furniture in it was stolen.”
Yet Maram is still driven by her compassion. “When I think about the people who I help in my work, I feel better as I have something good to do. I am not selfish now I think about other people.”
“I feel that it is my duty to help people who are living with me in this life,” said Nour, a 31-year-old Syrian aid worker, “I want to be part of a positive change that changes people's lives for the better.”
Nour studied psychology at a university in Syria before the outbreak of war put an abrupt end to her studies. She began her humanitarian career as a counseling psychologist for children who had been displaced by the conflict, and then became a volunteer teacher before joining PIN. Today, most of her work involves helping children whose childhoods have been cut short by tragedy, loss, and displacement.
Nour’s job requires her to travel through areas that are often unsafe. Even then, the changing security situation in Syria can sometimes prevent her from reaching those in need. This, according to Nour, is one the biggest challenges of her job.
“People live in very difficult circumstances, if we did not help them, we would not be humans,” she said. “Even when I am tired, I remember that there are people who need my help, so I ignore my exhaustion and continue my work.”