‘Hum­bling’ visit

Aid-giv­ing mis­sion an in­spi­ra­tion to vol­un­teers

Evening Telegraph (Late Extra Edition) - - COURT REPORTS - BY STEVEN RAE

A CITY woman has spo­ken o f e break­ing” scenes she wit­nessed on an aid-giv­ing mis­sion to Le­banon.

Sophia You­nis, 25, trav­elled with friend Aishah An­war, 24, on an in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teer de­ploy­ment pro­gramme for four days with Ac­tion Re­lief, in part­ner­ship with Mus­lim Aid – both Is­lamic char­i­ties.

The pair, who stud­ied at Mor­gan Academy to­gether, trav­elled to the Middle Eastern country to hand­de­liver food parcels to Syr­ian and Pales­tinian refugees.

An es­ti­mated 2.2 mil­lion refugees from Syria are in Le­banon, dis­placed fol­low­ing the Syr­ian Civil War.

Be­tween 175,000-500,000 Pales­tinian refugees are thought to be in Le­banon, hav­ing left the war-torn re­gion in­ter­mit­tently since the 1948 Pales­tine war broke out.

Sophia, who works part-time in a call cen­tre, said: “The time flew by, even though each day was long and tir­ing, but the ex­pe­ri­ence was worth ev­ery sin­gle mo­ment.

“When you meet fam­i­lies who are fac­ing ad­ver­sity in the form of ill­ness, death and poverty it changes the way you see the world.

“We worked hard pack­ing boxes and hand-de­liv­er­ing food parcels to Syr­ian and Pales­tinian refugees in South and North Le­banon camps.

“We played foot­ball with the young kids and braided and styled the lit­tle girls’ hair. The small­est of ges­tures went a long way.

“Many Syr­ian refugee fam­i­lies lost their loved ones and it was up­set­ting hear­ing their sto­ries.

“We met a grand­mother who lived with her son, daugh­ter-in-law and four grand­chil­dren in a very small room. Her heart break­ing words were, ‘I would rather eat the sand of Syria than live like this’.

“We can never un­der­stand the pain and suf­fer­ing these peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing even though they are ‘safe’.

“I met a beau­ti­ful young woman who was made a widow dur­ing the Syr­ian cri­sis. As she told her story, I could feel the tears run­ning down my face and emo­tions were high on so many lev­els. I could not help feel­ing self­ish and tried to stop my­self from cry­ing in front of her.

“These women are so strong and so de­ter­mined to make the best out of what they have, even though they have been through so much tur­moil and heartache. I was amazed by their gen­eros­ity.”

Sophia said the Pales­tinian camps were quite dif­fer­ent from the Syr­ian ones. There were third and fourth­gen­er­a­tion refugees, whose grand­par­ents had been born in the camps.

Sophia said: “One woman’s par­ents had fled Pales­tine in 1948. She was born in the camp, had given birth in the camp and was now 70 years old and a grand­mother her­self. Their con­di­tions were bet­ter as they had turned their houses into homes as much as they could.

“They had things like rugs and cush­ions they had ac­quired over the years. But most peo­ple were liv­ing in lit­tle ship­ping con­tain­ers or shacks.

“Ev­ery camp we vis­ited, they in­vited us in to have tea and cof­fee with them. Chil­dren were fight­ing to

Sophia and Aishah with some of the many chil­dren they met dur­ing their mis­sion to Le­banon.

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