After eight years of intense fighting, communities in Syria are re-emerging from the rubble. Tearfund’s Middle East Response Director, Kieren Barnes, recently travelled to Syria. He went to plan, with our partners, how best we can serve people as they look to the future.
Arriving in a bustling, busy and developed Damascus, it was hard to believe this was the same battered and broken Syria that we’ve grown used to seeing in the media. That is until we began travelling on the road out of the capital.
Huge parts of Damascus have been destroyed, and in the cities of Homs and Aleppo collapsed apartment blocks lie everywhere. There was no reassuring glow of street lights, no lights on in apartments. And yet, people are returning to these empty streets and crumbling buildings, determined to pick up the pieces of their lives.
The suffering that’s taken place has left scars beyond the broken buildings.
Each time I visit Syria, I’m reminded of how friendly everybody is, how welcoming they are. On this visit though, I also saw the contrast between different parts of the country. Some areas are still functioning fairly normally, some are starting to rebuild. In other areas where there's been the most destruction, the pain is tangible. People are trying to move forward, but the suffering that’s taken place has left scars beyond the broken buildings.
Tearfund has mostly been working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan – providing food and shelter, and offering trauma counselling. Meeting people’s immediate needs has been vital, and this will continue inside Syria, where over six million people are still displaced.
But we have now been registered to set up an office in Syria. It means we can employ local people who know their country better than anybody, and we can support them as they in turn support their communities.
Alongside churches and other local organisations, we will be providing livelihoods training and business grants – helping people to reactivate old businesses or start new ones.
Among the ruins, lives and communities are being restored.
Being registered in Syria means that we can be among the people and organisations we’re working with.
Travelling the road together
In a village just outside Homs I saw, first hand, the difference that livelihoods training and investment is making. People were starting up small shops, beauty salons, car repair services. One family we chatted to who had been forced to flee from ISIS twice felt secure about their future for the first time in many years.
Among the ruins, lives and communities are being restored. It's going to be a long road but, thanks to our registered status, it’s a road that Tearfund will be travelling with the people of Syria.
• Ask God for the resources and for the right staff as Tearfund grows its work in Syria.
• As staff and volunteers travel around the country, pray for their safety.
• Pray for Tearfund to have wisdom as we develop our strategy in Syria.