We are focusing on Syrian children in need. Particularly in the Aleppo region. They lost their house, family, school, friends and are often refugees in their own country. Many are living in make shift camps in the countryside in Syria, or in Turkey close to the Syrian border. The living conditions are very very poor.
2013-2014: We sent three containers of clothing, toys, wheel chairs, milk powder etc right into Syria.
2014: We distributed foodbaskets and blankets to the children in Aleppo countryside.
2014: We supported a school for refugee children in Turkey and bought them schoolbags.
2014: We supported a center for pychological assistance of refugee children in Turkey and bought them toys and teaching materials. These children are traumatised by war and have to learn again how to function in a group. Afterwards they can go to school again.
2014-2105: We distributed coats, blankets, scarves, hats, diapers, milk powder for the children in the makeshift camps in Antakya, Reyhanli and Syria during winter.
2015: We distributed warm Iftar meals to the children and their families in the camps in Idleb (Aleppo) during Ramadan.
Many children are sick because they don't get appropriate meals. We made sure they had healthy meals.
2015: We distributed toys and biscuits to the children in the camps in Idleb at the end of Ramadan.
2015: We distributed 35 water tanks of 5000 litres in the countryside of Idleb (Aleppo). This summer there was a heat wave and in the camps they were completely without water.
We continue to deliver aid to the refugee children particularly around Aleppo.
No help is reaching them. There are few international charities in the region. We work with trustworthy volunteers in the area who know exactly what the children need.
They inform us, we send them money and after a few days the goods reach the children.
SOS Syrian Children was founded in early 2013 by Suzy and Hamid.
Both are living in Antwerp, Belgium and both are carrying Syria in their hearts. Because of their continuous enthusiasm and perseverance the couple succeeded in convincing more and more people in and outside Belgium to commit themselves to the Syrian children particularly from Aleppo.
At present the organisation consists of 10 volunteers. Most are having their own jobs but are ready to dedicate a great part of their spare time to the cause of the Syrian children.
"The moment I saw everything growing worse in 2011, I realized I had to do something for the Syrian children. I always had met so much hospitality from everyone, and especially the children had stolen my heart. Irresistible with their sparkling eyes and charming smiles, wishing me welcome whenever I met them on the street ...I felt strongly that I had to ease their pain and to give them back their smiles in these difficult moments. I started collecting clothes and toys."
"I am Syrian and I am living in Belgium for quite a long time. I carry Syria in my heart and I cry when I see the horrible things that happen to my people. I feel I have to help them. I want to... because I don't want them to be a lost generation. They have to feel there are still people who care about them."
" In 2013 I started a simple clothing collection that soon got out of hand. Wonderfull to see how family, friends, school and community were getting involved in the project. The feeling I really could make a difference even with a simple gesture was amazing.
Right now I cannot do without SOS Syrian Children anymore. Partly because I have children of my own and realize how important it is for very young people to grow up in a stable, loving environment. But I also try to imagine how it would be if such a tragedy would happen in my own country.
Wouldn't I long for some help?"
"Heartbreaking to think of all the Syrian children with physical and mental trauma in and outside Syria.
Their suffering upsets me even more knowing their great distress while there is such little support from the international community. I decided not to remain passive and to commit myself to humanitarian aid for Syrian children. How vulnerable or hurt they are, they carry the future of Syria in themselves!"
By Courtenay Forbes, Global Correspondent for Safeworld
How did you come to set up SOS Syrian Children?
My husband is Syrian and it was our dream to spend more time in his country. I loved the temperature, the culture, the food, the nature. I felt at home. In October 2011, we left without knowing it would be years until we could go back. Home in Belgium, we saw the situation get worse and worse. My husband got depressed and all at once I got the idea to do something for the Syrian people. They deserved it because they had always been so nice to me. They had always accepted me as I was and had treated me and my daughters as princesses. I owed it to them.
I started without any preparation. Just an idea. They said I was crazy and that I would not succeed. But I found power in myself that I had never known I had.
Why is it the children in particular affected by the conflict in Syria you feel you want to help?
During various stays in Aleppo, I got really enchanted by Syrian children. In particular, I adored the street children and children from poorer backgrounds. They're very spontaneous, funny, and always smiling, even in difficult circumstances. I often saw them working in the camps, shops or even in construction works where they helped their fathers or brothers. I thought to myself, ‘Too young to work’. When I met them on the street they greeted me and, seeing I was a foreigner, they said to me ‘Welcome’!
Therefore, since then they always had a special place in my heart! And aren't they the weakest group in this conflict? They should be Syria's future and yet their dreams and hopes are all destroyed now.
What is life like for children living in Syria today?
They have lost their childhood. They have seen terrible things which children should not see: violence, death. Most of them have lost family and relatives.
They have lost their home, their school, and their friends. Some of them have the responsibility for the family because their father or brothers are gone. Most of them have to work to support their families. Life is hard. No money to buy food, and most of the time no water or electricity. And the constant fear of being shelled.
Not only physically is this hard, but also psychologically: a lot have depression, sleeping problems, problems in communicating. They will carry these signs with them the rest of their lives.
Are there any particular stories of a child’s experience which have touched you?
There are so many, but I particularly remember our visit to the centre of Psycho-Social Support in Reyhanli (TR) where we met with a small group of young children. They followed a group session and we could participate. The look in their eyes I will never forget. Some were hiding behind the tables and it was difficult to make contact. Because of their war experiences they cannot function in groups anymore. They cannot go to school. Only by playing they slowly came closer. I remember one little orphan girl with the most beautiful smile.
How does SOS Syrian Children help them?
We try to help children in need. We started sending containers full of clothes and toys etc. from Belgium right to Aleppo. But this was quite exhausting, expensive, and slow.
Right now we are collecting money and we are working with trustworthy people who buy the necessary items on the field and distribute for us. It can be food baskets, meals, school materials, warm clothes, blankets, or now with the heat wave in Syria, just water.
What is the most important part of the work you do?
The most difficult thing is finding sponsors and motivating people to support our projects. I have a small team of volunteers who are helping me in this.
Equally important is to find trustworthy people in Syria itself to buy and distribute for us. This is my husband's part. He speaks Arabic and can easily communicate with the people there.
Where do you find volunteers?
I'm posting a lot on Facebook and try to get people to react and try to do something. But it is not always easy to get people engaged [in the issues].
Do you have a core group who run the organisation?
Our team consists of my husband and I, my daughter, and six volunteers. All of the volunteers are young women with a busy life, job and family but with a heart for Syria. Every two months we sit together and to discuss and plan. They are there when I have a problem, they make suggestions. We're all friends. I didn't know them before [I started SOS Syrian Children], but I met them when doing the containers and they love to help me. They all have their speciality, from making our webpage, to writing letters or organizing.
How much support are people in Belgium giving you?
Everyone thinks it is terrific. We sent three containers in the beginning with stuff we had been collecting in Belgium. The response was enormous. Everyone started collecting: schools, sport clubs, churches, and a lot of individuals, too.
They invited us to come and talk about the Syrian children. We did our best to make them part of it. They could also sponsor the trip: by giving €1 they could push the ship 1km nearer to Syria. They could follow on Facebook the voyage of the containers by sea. And when they arrived, they were equally enthusiastic as we were.
Unfortunately, fundraising is much more difficult. People don't like to sponsor because they hear about scandals with funds in big international charities. Sometimes they don't understand the situation in Syria any longer, or they are just fed up with the Syrian tragedy. The press doesn't talk about it any longer.
What problems do you face getting items into Syria?
We cannot do this any longer. It has become too difficult, almost impossible.
How do you ensure that what you send reaches the children? What difficulties do you face with this?
This is my husband's part. Last November, we visited Reyhanli and Antakya, where we had given financial support to a school, and a centre for psycho-social assistance of refugee children. We met trustworthy people who guide us now to the children in need inside Syria and to people who can distribute for us.
We always ask [for] invoices of what they buy and to send us pictures of what has been bought and distributed. My husband is very careful in choosing a project. He wants to know who he is dealing with.
What can others do to help the children caught up in the conflict in Syria?
This is one of the biggest human tragedies in our history. We need solidarity. We in the West have so much and we often don't realise it. We are afraid to give from our wealth. Everyone should give; even a small sum can save a life. Check the charity you want to sponsor, and donate.
There is really no excuse for not helping.
What would you like to do in the future with SOS Syrian Children?
Although I have thought several times about quitting because it is very tiring and stressful, I doubt I really could stop helping. It is stronger than me and I cannot leave the children without help.
We are not a big association but when I see the pictures they're sending us and I see their faces when they get a meal or a coat, or now in summer the water tanks we are sending them, then I know that this is why I'm doing it.