While our Christmas trees are lit up with bright colours and mountains of gift boxes rest on its foot, the other part of the world only has a candle to light up their night and they just have one wish: Salvation.

Unfortunately, children in Syria and Yemen wouldn’t be opening presents this time and probably haven’t seen any since the past few years.

HOW DID IT START?

The conflict in Syria goes back beyond the civil war we’ve been seeing in the past 5 years – they’ve long been suffering from unemployment, corruption, lack of freedom and so on even before the unrest begun. What started as the nation’s dissent from the government eventually lead to the government’s use of brutal force. This has intensified over time as rebels formed into brigades to bring down the current regime. The intervention of countries like Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and United States as we see, turned the country into a live battleground – cities like Aleppo were knocked into rubble and the world watched mass genocide happen real-time.

What’s even more saddening is Yemen’s depressing similarity with Syria’s situation. They too are slowly being wiped away by the war that set them back decades and the after effects of it e.g. famine. The food insecurity is so intense that everyday, 10.6 million men, women and children do not know when their next meal would be. 

This Christmas season, I decided to put together ways to extend a helping hand to these war-torn countries even from the comfort of your couch. 

1.  Take Action. 

Your voice is more powerful than you think. Sign the petition to pressurize world leaders to fund the ‘Education Cannot Wait’ Pledge for children. Almost 400,000 children in Syria could not go to school in the 5 years of war and agony they were put through.

$120m has been committed this year by the UK, USA, Dubai Cares, the Netherlands, Norway, the EU, Canada and Denmark to kickstart the fund.

2.  Donate to ICRC. 

The International Committee of The Red Cross gives 93% of your donation to people whose lives have been shattered by war. Help those who are still stuck at Eastern Aleppo and give them a chance to restart their lives. Instead of buying yourself another dress, think of what $100 can do for them.

3. Support UNICEF

2.2 Million children in Yemen are malnourished. UNICEF provides these children with clean water, vaccination and even long-term aides like education. You can donate for as low as £5! They need food more than we need expensive wine bottles for Christmas. Buy less expensive gifts for your family and friends and tell them the reason why you’ve invested your bonus pay this year elsewhere. I’m sure that would warm their hearts more than any tangible object in this world!

4. Help Refugees.

There are honestly so many ways you can help a refugee. Canada is one of the most welcoming countries when it comes to helping Syrian refugees. Thanks to the #WelcomeRefugees scheme being a good model to the world.

You too, can help in providing shelter if you live in one of the Refugee-Welcome approved countries. It’s a website that allows ordinary citizens to provide rooms/beds, it’s like the AirBNB or Couchsurfing for refugees!

Another way to help them is to volunteer your medical skills for MSF – Medecins Sans Frontieres or Doctors Without Borders , an organisation that provides medical care to the victims of the war. Currently, they are helping out the survivors from the recent East Aleppo attack.

If you can’t volunteer, you can opt to rather donate some amount to help ease their ever-worsening conditions. 50% of Syria’s population are internally displaced and are in desperate need of medical/hygiene kits.

5. Sponsor An Orphan

80% of Yemen’s population are in need of humanitarian assistance (CARE.ORG). The ongoing violence in the country has led to millions being displaced, they are in great need of food and medical supplies due to the closure of lands/air/sea routes. People are dying and children are often left on their own.

You can sponsor an orphan and help in the form of health checks and educational sponsorship. We can be assured that Islamic Relief is non-biased as they do not accept any other monetary gifts other than what the sponsorship allows. It’s also very flexible as it allows you to visit your sponsored kid and see how you’re helping him/her.

6. Send A Message

The Syrian youth has lost at least 5 years of their lives to the war but you can help in rebuilding their future. These children have learnt violence first-hand at such tender age, they move from camp to camp in hopes of never losing another family member again. Semester breaks from school turn into years. They do not only suffer from scarce resources but also from post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you’re an American, you have the power to Send A Message to the Congress through Mercy Corps and economically stabilise their country by making education accessible and supporting small entrepreneurs.

7. Know Their Story

Lastly, the more we know about the war, the better we can help. Start by reading the story of Amina, the 16-year-old girl who dreams to be a doctor and return to Syria one day. At 16, she joined protests instead of classes, until the time came where she and her family were left with no choice but move to Jordan where she then struggled with bullying.

Know the story of the 19 year-old Dalia who is grateful for the gift of life. Dalia was one year away from graduating before Aleppo’s resources were stripped away, from electricity to water. Dalia’s family had to leave as their lives became endangered. She now lives a life in Lebanon and despite the three years she’s lost to war, she believes that she, along with others, can rebuild her devastated country someday. Cheers to her strong hope!

19 Year Old Dalia

You don’t have to do all 7, doing just 1 is more than enough to help. Regardless of your financial status, there will always be a way to extend a hand. I’ve also donated a portion of my income to most, if not all, organisations I mentioned above. Trust me, it changes your whole Christmas experience. 🙂

That’s all for now!

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year! Keep smiling 🙂

Mandy xx