The White Helmets

Katie Nelson

Since 2011, Syria has been paralyzed by a gruesome civil war between the Assad regime, the Kurds, and rebel groups. The conflict has displaced more than 11 million (both internally and externally) as refugees, and killed nearly 500,000. In 2017 alone, the United Nations requested $8 billion in aid to put towards “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.” As the fighting intensifies, it is Syrians themselves who feel its weight on their shoulders.

The Syrian Civil Defense (SCD) is at the forefront of the conflict. What started in 2012 as a makeshift series of rescue teams evolved into a more cohesive volunteer-based unit, now colloquially known as the “White Helmets.” The White Helmets come from all walks of life, from students and artisans, to doctors, engineers, and teachers. Their mission is simple: “To save the greatest number of lives in the shortest possible time and to minimize further injury to people and damage to property.” The group primarily deals with the aftermath of governmental airstrikes, but at its core, the SCD is wholly dedicated to providing nonpartisan aid to nearly seven million Syrians. In addition to operating as a first-response unit, the White Helmets’ work spans across a multitude of sectors in the public sphere including distributing information, rewiring electrical cables, and checking the safety of affected buildings. The volunteers’ pledges to the pillars of “Humanity, Solidarity, [and] Impartiality” aligns them with the courageous values of the group, with one another, and adheres them to the betterment of Syria herself in her darkest hour.

In 2016, the White Helmets were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and won the year’s Right Livelihood Award for their service to the international community. That same year, Netflix released its documentary “The White Helmets” featuring the group, produced by the Oscar-nominated team behind “Virunga.” While key players in the battle have continuously flirted with peace negotiations, fighting in its current state seems to be at best an inconsistent ceasefire. Yet organizations like the White Helmets keep hope alive for millions and epitomizes altruistic volunteering.

To learn more about the White Helmets, please check out these links:

https://www.whitehelmets.org/en 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1NguKirQDg

 

 

Sources
1. Durando, Jessica. “Syria’s civil war: Disturbing facts show cost of conflict.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 06 July 2017.
2. “Syria: The worst humanitarian crisis of our time.” Amnesty International NZ. Amnesty International, 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 July 2017.
3. “Volunteers to Save Lives.” Volunteers to Save Lives | SCD. Web. 20 June 2017.
4. Campaign, The Syria. “Meet the heroes saving Syria.” Support the White Helmets. Web. 17 June 2017.
5. “Syria’s White Helmets win ‘alternative Nobel Prize’.” BBC News. BBC, 22 Sept. 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.

May Your Work Bring Just and Lasting Peace

Our CEO Pamela Hawley uses quotes to motivate herself and to teach others. Here is her analysis of a lovely quote from her blog Living and Giving.

President Lincoln advised us… “Whatever work you are devoted to….may it bring just and lasting peace.”

Our respected President Abraham Lincoln brought this to light in his 1865  Inaugural Address. What a calling for each of us to think, as we go about our work each day, how it can bring “just and lasting peace.”  And I think work here is not just our professional work, but any task to which we are devoting ourselves.  Any project, endeavor, activity — from raising a child to decorating a Valentine’s Day wreath — can have kindness, justice and peace as a necessary ingredient to our performing of it.

President Lincoln says something instrumental here: As we strive for our goal, it should be peace brought between each one us, and then also with all countries.  The point here is that gentle justice, no matter how small, and a caring, kind sense of peacefulness in all our interactions, bring that sense of worldwide peace. And it must start with ourselves, our conversations, our actions between each person we meet. That’s a great calling for us in living rightly every day!

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) served as the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln led the United States through the American Civil War and in so doing, preserved the Union, ended slavery, strengthened the national government. He promoted rapid modernization of the economy through banks, canals, railroads and tariffs to encourage the building of factories. He is admired for his commitment to national unity, equal rights, liberty, and democracy in America. 

The second child of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Lincoln,  Abraham was self-educated, and became a country lawyer, a Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives during the 1840s. Married to Mary Todd in 1842, he was an affectionate husband and father of four children.

Bio Source: Wikipedia: Abraham_Lincoln

Devote yourself by volunteering for peace and justice here.

Juliana Margulies – Smile at a Stranger, and the Important Reason Why

This post is by CEO Pamela Hawley’s from her blog Living and Giving.

 

“Walk down the street and smile at a stranger. He’ll smile at the next stranger passing by, and then the whole street is smiling. And no one knows why.”  — Juliana Margulies

I love this quote. The only reason why we need to smile…is simply to give joy.  Give joy to ourselves and to others…it’s one of our main reasons for being.  And while people may not know why you are smiling, they’ll soon find out:  It makes the world go around with peacefulness, graciousness, and lovingkindness.  That’s reason enough. 🙂

Juliana Margulies is an American actress who achieved success as a regular character on ER, for which she received an Emmy.  More recently, she took the lead role in The Good Wife, and has received a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild awards.

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

OEF

 

According to the Christian Science Monitor, civilian casualties in Afghanistan have increased at a record rate. 1,601 civilians have been killed in 2016 and 3,565 have been wounded. Close to a third of the casualties are children.

 

This kind of statistic is unacceptable.  Kids should not suffer.  Let’s help them now!

 

Do your part and donate to our partner organizations to support at-risk populations in Afghanistan.

 

Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, working in the United States and 70 countries around the world, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people impacted by poverty and emergencies. Direct Relief has assistance programs in Afghanistan that focus on maternal and child health, the prevention and treatment of disease, and emergency preparedness and response. These programs are tailored to the specific circumstances and needs of the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations.

 

Mercy Corps concentrates on community building to help relieve poverty and suffering. Working in over 40 countries, this organization provides emergency relief in times of hardship, assistance to countries in recovery from oppressive regimes and economic downturn,and sustainable change by concentrating on the needs of locals. They are seasoned philanthropists with over 30 years of experience in giving aid to those who need it most.

Visit UniversalGiving to learn about more giving and volunteer opportunities.

Through the eyes of a child

By Lubna Javed

I was allowed to stay up late and watch The Muppet Babies movie on television by myself on the night of 16th January 1991; I was 12. I went to bed quite late, only to be startled shortly afterwards by my mother. She was attempting to awaken my father and yelling, “The War has started.” Years later I can still clearly recall the fright with which I got up. The haunting sound of the sirens still rings in my ears when I think about that night.

I wrote the following a few days into the War, perhaps as a means to cope with a new emotion:

Missile Attack Siren

So frightening when heard,It is what we all feared,

It is what we all feared,

Alarming too,

Quick you have to seek refuge,

To avoid casualties, small or huge,

Perhaps you have to wear the gas mask,

Agreed is a difficult task,

It is a great relief when all is clear,

Then, it is not the missile attack to fear.

My father worked as a civil engineer in Saudi Arabia for a number of years. We were expats. We lived very close to the city of Dhahran when the Persian Gulf War broke out. Most of our neighbors and friends had left the city before the War started. Our apartment building was deserted. WE had never felt more alone.

My parents had “sealed” the master bedroom in preparation for the War. Windows had been taped up with layers upon layers of duct tape. The minute opening under the air conditioning unit was sealed with old rags and then plastered with duct tape. We all slept in the master bedroom. Every time the siren sounded, we would seek refuge in that room. My parents would close the bedroom door and put wet rags under the gap beneath the door. We would then proceed to wear our harrowing gas masks and await anxiously for the All Clear signal to be broadcasted on radio. My 7 year old brother would, without a doubt, refuse to wear his gas mask and my parents would engage in a scrimmage to put it on him. My baby brother would be donned in some sort of a yellow suit that resembled a space suit. Not knowing what the outcome would be after the sirens were sounded was a horrendous feeling. My mind could not help but regurgitate the question, “Will we live?”

Every time the Scud missiles were intercepted by the Patriot missiles, the windows of our home would rattle just as if they were about to shatter onto the ground. It felt like an earthquake. There was one Scud that fell at a barracks housing, merely a few kilometers away from our home, killing 28 soldiers.

There were reports that there may be a water shortage or the supply could be tainted, so we filled a few buckets and our bathtub with water. For weeks, we used to bathe outside the tub since it was being used for the water storage.

Schools all over the city had been closed for more than a month after the War started. I had not stepped outside the house for that duration. And when my school finally opened, with only a third of its population, gas masks were a requisite. Imagine carrying a gas mask to school instead of carrying a lunch bag.

I penned another poem during the War. It should provide further insight into the multitude of first-time emotions I was experiencing at the time.

No War, Please

We don’t want to live with wars,

It’s like being stuck behind bars,

Really annoying to hear jets and explosion,

It’s so much of a tension,

Nice it would be…

To be again free!

War causes great destruction,

Enormous loss of population,

Our homes should be filled with happiness,

Not loneliness and sadness,

Better to have peace,

We don’t want wars, please!

We were lucky that the War did not last long and the casualties were not visible. There are others who are not so lucky. They just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. We were also fortunate to not have been forced out of our home as the War was short lived. It spanned a total of only about 6 weeks.

Each day war forces thousands of people to flee their homes: people just like you and me. They are forced to leave everything behind, sometimes even their hope for a future. I had to neither leave my home nor my belongings behind. I still to this day have many of my toys from my childhood, including my Barbie dolls and countless pieces of Barbie furniture. I recently gave my Barbie treasures to my daughter and she was simply ecstatic. She does not realize yet that I am lucky to have been able to pass them on to her.

By the end of 2015, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. This means that one out of every 113 persons in the world were forced to flee their home. IN other words, every minute 24 people are displaced.  http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html

As individuals, we may not be able to necessarily change the dynamics of war or alleviate the terror that child caught in the middle of a war feels. However, we can make a difference in the lives of refugees. There are many organizations in place that provide support for refugees. UniversalGiving connects donors and volunteers with such organizations.