A lot of people get so caught up in the political debates–about things like arming the opposition and US intervention, among others–that they forget just how many Syrians have been killed and displaced in the 3 years since the conflict began and the many other humanitarian tragedies the war has wrought. It was our intention to bring this knowledge to people—as well as do a little fundraising along the way.
On Tuesday, we held a Skype call with Dr. Monzer Yazji, a founding member of the Union for Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM). Dr. Yazji spoke to us about the systematic targeting of medical and humanitarian relief efforts by regime forces within Syria and about his work trying to get medical care to civilians there. He told us that the regime restricts medical care from reaching anyone who supports the opposition–or doesn’t explicitly support them–and therefore hundreds of people in opposition-controlled areas find it nearly impossible to receive medical care. Dr. Yazji talked about seeing doctors he was working with targeted by military air strikes, including one talented young brain surgeon who had gone on a special mission to reach a child with a brain tumor and was killed. He himself was at risk numerous times. I was particularly struck by Dr. Yazji’s passion for and commitment to what he was doing, not only in such a dangerous situation in Syria but also with intense passion in America, recruiting doctors and Syrian-Americans to support his cause. Everyone in the audience on Tuesday was left with a new appreciation of the difficulties of providing assistance in Syria.
Saturday provided the opportunity to do just that. In conjunction with Al Bustan, we put on a fundraiser for Karam Foundation. Karam is an American-based non-profit that runs programs for displaced Syrians that incorporate art, exercise, and health; their motto is “Every Child Deserves to Play.” Our event featured a performance by the Al Bustan Takht Ensemble, art-making, Arab food, and a brief attempt at debke. We also screened some of Karam’s videos to highlight their programs with Syrian children. The gathering raised over $650 for Karam’s efforts to help displaced Syrians. It was great to see community members–students and adults, Arabs and non-Arabs–come together to support a cause.
Overall, we were happy with the impact that the week had and hope it will inspire people to continue to follow and support the Syrian cause.
Amy T. Cass
University of Pennsylvania
Class of 2015, International Relations Major
Al-Bustan Program Assistant