Jay Copp 2017-04-20 10:52:43
His boyhood in Syria lingers in his mind like a half-remembered dream. Three years ago, before the terrifying bombs and attacks forced his parents to flee from Aleppo to Turkey, Abdulrezak, 13, lived in a comfortable apartment. His mother taught school, and his father managed a textile factory. The transition has not been easy for Abdulrezak. He pines for his former life and all its reassuring constancies—friends, classmates, relatives and his home. Today his family lives in a single room in an abandoned building. The rickety structure, in danger of collapse, is cold and leaky. There is no electricity or running water. The family has little food and sleeps together on the floor. His father finds sporadic work in textile factories. Abdulrezak brings in money for the family as well. Early in the morning he cleans a barber shop, earning 20 Turkish lira (US$5) weekly. Abdulrezak (center), his sister, Esma (right), and another child, also a Syrian refugee, stand outside the container classroom in Turkey made possible by Swedish Lions. After work, he gladly spends most of his day at a container classroom made possible by Lions from Sweden. The makeshift school is located on the grounds of a Turkish school near Adana in southern Turkey. Abdulrezak brings his sister, Esma, 10, with him to classes each day. The school is not luxurious, but it represents for Abdulrezak a lifeline to a better life. “Both kids are so happy now,” says Past District Governor Nilgün Niord, who lives both in Sweden and Turkey and has helped lead Lions’ aid for refugees. “Container class has changed their lives and given them hope for the future. Abdulrezak wants to be a pilot to travel around the world with his family. Esma wants to be a teacher like her mother.” Nearly 300,000 refugees from the endless war in Syria are living near Adana. Lions in Sweden have donated close to US$540,000 for school containers and school supplies, food, blankets and tents. About 900 children are now in school thanks to Lions. The next project through the Lions’ Forgotten Children campaign is to build two barracks for use as medical clinics. Lions in Norway have been similarly active in assisting Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Working with a Lebanese nonprofit, the Lions recently built a “safe center” in Bekaa near the Syrian border. The six buildings provide warmth, safety and classrooms for the children. Lions also have provided truckloads of clothing and blankets for hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Syrian children at the Lions’ school in Lebanon have experienced terrible loss yet display remarkable resiliency. Ali Barba, 9, watched her father die after a bombing. She cries when she tells the story to Lion Einar Lyngar, who travels to Lebanon to coordinate the aid of Norwegian Lions. “I hope to get an education and have a nice life. Without school, there is no hope,” she tells Lyngar. A bomb obliterated the home of Waed Zhouri, 15, but her family somehow survived. “God protected us,” she says. Her family walked the long way to Lebanon. Her dream is to “get an education and one day return to Syria in peace.” Hussein Khaled Ibrahim, 13, also, fled with his family after his neighborhood was heavily bombed. His body covered with sweat, he wakes up in the night screaming. His goal is to be a journalist “to tell the world how horrible a war is for children.” Two Syrian children who are refugees in Lebanon wear socks donated by Lions in Norway. Accustomed to doing without, the boy at first though the socks were mittens. The service of the Scandinavian Lions is part of a broad Lions’ effort to help refugees. The Scandinavian Lions work in tandem with Lions from Turkey and Lebanon, and LCIF has contributed vital support. Often supported as well by LCIF, Lions in Greece, the Netherlands and Slovenia, among other nations, also are providing refugees with an array of desperately needed goods: outdoor heaters, special toilets, shoes, toiletries and portable emergency kits. A girl who is a Syrian refugee is ready to learn at the Lions’ school near Adana, Turkey. The heartbreaking plight of Syrian refugees seen on TV and social media has moved Lions to action. Swedish Lions, for example, decided to prioritize relief for refugees after viewing grisly images of numerous Syrians found dead and abandoned in trucks near Vienna, Austria. The Lions know they cannot help every refugee, but each refugee they help builds a better, more peaceful world. The Scandinavian Lions have a leg up in reaching out to refugees thanks to well-connected members with a passion to help the most vulnerable. Niord, an educator who is Turkish, is married to Past Council Chair Leif Niord of Sweden. Lyngar, a journalist, has a long history of going to foreign nations to assist victims of disaster or tragedy. The school provides a semblance of normalcy for the children. Absorbing refugees in a society with its own large numbers of poor can lead to tension. Lions built the classrooms in Turkey on school grounds to shelter the refugees from hostile encounters. But the school’s location has had positive unplanned consequences. Naturally wary of one another, the Turkish and Syrian children tentatively mingled at first before friendships blossomed. “Every child we help by providing an education—and faith in mankind—is a victory for humanity,” says Past District Governor Åke Nyquist of Sweden.
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