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Change a Life: Aya, Khouloud, Reem and Khawla

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4.8 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began in 2011. Over 6 million others are internally displaced within Syria in numerous official and unofficial camps. Many of these families live in unsanitary, unsafe, inhumane conditions; where they survive on meager rations and have access to almost no health care. The stories of what is happening right now are tragic: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/27/syrias-war-on-doctors

In situations like these, it’s hard to know how one can help, but Gishwhes and Random Acts— in partnership with our close friend, humanitarian photographer Giles Duley http://gilesduley.com/bio/ who has spent years helping families in refugee areas— have decided that while we may not be able to solve Syria’s problems, making some small impact is better than standing idly by doing nothing. Therefore, we have narrowed the scope and we are going to radically change the material situation of two sweet families that have suffered tremendously from this conflict.

First, we invite you to join us in changing the life of Khouloud, her husband and 4 children:

Khouloud was shot by a sniper and paralyzed from the neck down in 2012 while she was tending to her garden: “I had tried to plant a small area of land near our house, as it wasn’t possible to get vegetables like before. I was going to take care of the plants with my four children and suddenly a bullet hit my neck and I fell down and lost sensation. I could not move anymore. The children started shouting and yelling.”

Her family fled the country and managed to get her out of Syria. They found themselves living in a tented settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, one of thousands of such unofficial camps dotted across the country.

UNHCR provides minimal food coupons, but the family is struggling and there is almost no health care available for Khouloud. Khouloud’s husband has to provide her with 24-hour care as well as tending to their four young children. For two years, Khouloud has not moved from her bed, staring at the ceiling of the small shack that they live in. Even in these deplorable conditions and circumstances, they continue to create some semblance of “home.” War Correspondent Giles Duley, who first shared their story with us and continues to visit them bringing them support and global attention, communicated that: “Khouloud remains eternally positive and smiles, and her husband, Jamal, still looks at her with the love he did when they first met. The children do their homework on the bed with their mother and they always eat together.”

It’s hard to think of a home more filled with love and compassion, despite incredibly difficult circumstances. Khouloud's simple wish?

“To be a mother again,” she said. “I wish I could move my fingers because sometimes my son is injured outside and he comes in next to me. He moves my hand and he puts my fingers onto the wound. I wish I could move my fingers to touch the wound and make him feel like I am feeling it with him.”

Second, we invite you to join us in supporting Khawla Yassine and her family. Their story is equally heartbreaking:

Khawla, 12-years old, lives in Lebanon in a camp with her mother, Sana, and her sister and 5 brothers (two of them have serious disabilities). Their father is missing and presumed dead in Syria.

Her mother and 15-year old sister used to work in a salt factory, but they were let go as the factory didn’t have enough work for them. To add insult to injury, while frying food in their tent, they accidentally burned the tent down, losing everything— even their clothes. They found a bare-bones tent structure to move into temporarily but had dwindling resources for food, water, and health care.

At this point, 12-year old Khawla made the choice to consume poison. She later explained her reason to attempt suicide to her mother: ‘Mama, there are seven of us and you work and work to feed us, but you can’t keep up. Without me, there will be one less person to feed.’ She spent 13 days in intensive care.

She is out of the hospital, but the family is in dire need of support. Khawla also has two disabled brothers; 6-year old Mohamad, who has an intestinal disease, and Ahmad, an 8-year old suffering from a blood disease that inhibits his ability to speak.

These are tragic stories, but together, we are going to profoundly change their lives!

Random Acts and GISHWHES are joining forces to help these families, but we need your help. With your support, we can help provide Khouloud, Mohamad, and Ahmad with medical care. We can move both of these families into apartments and provide nutritional support and education for the children.

We’re raising money for combined support for both families:

$1200 rent to moved them into clean and safe apartments
$500 physiotherapist/care support for Khouloud and the Khawla’s two brothers
$600 bills/living costs (this will mean Khouloud’s eldest boy can stop working and go back to school).
$7000 estimated for Khouloud to visit a spinal specialist and receive medical evaluation (including an MRI) to determine how to alleviate her suffering.

Join us!

100% of your donation is tax deductible, and 100% of your contribution will go to these families.

-Excerpts of this story by Giles Duley, as published on the UNHCR website about Khouloud and her family: http://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2016/6/57714a234/aya-doesnt-die-feisty-four-year-old-syria-survives-exile

ETA: Misha emailed this morning; we've raised more than enough for this family, so we are also helping another three families. From his email:

My Dearest Kisa,

Well, this is it! We are in the final day of the Hunt!

I know you all are incredibly busy right now, crocheting dental floss, or strapping on scuba gear to paint portraits, but I just wanted to poke my nose in for a moment to update you on a few important things.

First, you all have now raised over $125,000 for our refugee families!

This is incredible. We started with the ambitious goal of totally changing the material circumstances of one family in dire circumstances. You all did so well out of the gate that we quickly realized we could add a second family, and we did!

And then… You knocked it out of the park again! Now, we have raised ALMOST enough to add an additional TWO refugee families, bringing our total to FOUR families. Our close friend, the humanitarian photographer Giles Duley, who spends most of the year helping and documenting refugee families in Lebanon, has introduced us to two additional families that we are going to try to raise the money to help.

Earlier this morning, when Giles told us their stories in detail, I teared up. I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of something that can so radically change the lives of those in need for the better. So, if we can reach our new goal of $150k, we will also pay for housing and education for the surviving child of Reem - who lost her husband, one of her children and her leg in a rocket attack - and we can also help Aya Sokheyta, a 7-year old girl with spina bifida. Aya’s older sister carried her on her back across the desert out of Syria. Aya and, although her family are now safe in France, they have no money for a wheel chair, so her sister is still carrying her. We will pay for Aya’s wheelchair and continued medical assistance with her disability.

Giles will film each family’s reactions in the coming weeks and months as he brings them the news of what you have done for them and brings them into the new homes that you have made possible. We will share that footage with you.

If you haven’t yet completed Item 175, we invite you to do so. Here's the crowdrise page where you can complete it. Please try to get all of your friends and definitely strangers to help support this. Let us be the turning point in these families’ lives.


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