Nilgün Niord 2016-02-09 01:35:01
The headmaster at the school in Turkey near the border called me on my cell. I had organized a Lions Quest seminar at his school two years ago. The headmaster was desperate. More than 200,000 Syrian refugees had poured into the region. They lacked water, food, clothing and nearly everything else most of us take for granted. I am probably a lot like you—a Lion, a spouse, a longtime worker. I am a past distict governor from Turkey who lives there and in Sweden. I was an educator and owned a business. I had seen on television the plight of the refugees but had no idea how terrible their situation was until I met them in person. They are an incredibly brave people to flee their homes with nothing. I met Zelya, who is taking care of her five children, two elderly women, three young mothers and seven children whose parents had been her neighbors who died in the war. She built two tents for them in the wilderness. She fed them with weeds she dug from the earth. Her only objective was to get back home. It is heartbreaking to see the empty looks on the beautiful faces of children—not knowing what’s going on, why they are not home, why they cannot eat. This is the saddest thing I have ever seen. We are witnessing the biggest man-made disaster since the end of World War II. Some 2.5 million refugees are in Turkey. Most have traveled to big cities, and a quarter million are in camps. Their distress is unimaginable. One day you have a normal life in which you wake up, enjoy a warm breakfast, hug your children as they go to school, go to work … and the next day your house is destroyed by bombs. Some of your family and neighbors are killed, and you have to flee. You seek a safe place, the neighboring country. You don’t speak their language. You know no one. I’ve helped people in crisis before. After the devastating Izmit earthquake in Turkey in 1999 my club supplied goods. The people were traumatized, but it was for a very short period. They had many shoulders to cry on and many arms to hold them. Soon they had new safe homes and continued their lives. The Syrian refugees do not have a caring society around them. They don’t have a country any longer. They are unwanted strangers who cannot communicate and cannot build new homes and new lives for a long time. Urged on by Past International Director Jan-Ake Akerlund, Swedish Lions provided funds, and I, my husband, Past Council Chair Leif Niord of Sweden, and others delivered food, clothes and hygiene supplies to refugee families. On our next trip we took more goods specifically for the children—warm outfits, shoes, crayons, painting books, chocolate biscuits, fruit juices and even some toys. When we gave them Lion notebooks and pencils, the joy and the gratitude in their eyes were unforgettable. They sang for us and tried to kiss our hands. Thanks to the Swedish Lions, we’ve helped about 2,000 families. Our centennial slogan is “Where there’s a need, there’s a Lion.” How true. The refugees are the most vulnerable people on our planet. Let’s work together to restore their human dignity. To donate funds or to learn how a district or multiple district can aid refugees through an LCIF pilot grant program contact LCIFHumanitarianPrograms@lionsclubs.org.
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