Time is the most valuable thing for all human beings. The willingness to give our time and love to our communities by volunteering is a great inspiration to current and future generations. Syria is a great country that was once full of rivers, forests, and amazing wildlife. Many years before the war, we started to cut down the forests to expand the cities and build new houses. As a result, every year, the rain levels decreased, desertification ate the forests and agricultural land, and rivers started to dry out. The government did not take any measures to prevent these from happening. After that, the war destroyed the remaining forests and polluted the ground and air.
When I see Canada and the US on National Geographic, I envy them for their landscapes, where the mountains are full of trees, flowing rivers, and wild animals. I have lived in Damascus almost all my life, and a river called Barada divided the city into two halves. People used to swim in it in the 1950s. Once, in 2007, I thought about volunteering my time to remove plastic bottles and bags from its bank. However, not many people supported this idea back then. Even today, I still hope to see that river as clean as my grandmother once told me it was, and more volunteers would make that possible.
During the war, nonprofit organizations were established, and the old ones grew. After I graduated from college in 2014, I volunteered with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), which is the largest NGO in Syria. SARC supports internally-displaced persons in temporary shelters and provides psychosocial support and relief aid to vulnerable people in the country. At that time, I was told by one of my friends, who was a volunteer in the first aid department, that SARC started using the radio as a private communication medium. As a telecommunications engineer, I immediately applied to be part of this initiative as a volunteer. I wanted to use my time and academic knowledge to help improve this project. I was one out of three engineers who started the telecommunications department at SARC, and it was a great success.
Turkey is the home of the majority of the NGOs that support Syrians. Like many young Syrians, I had to flee the country due to the intensity of the war and went to Turkey. I struggled at first to find the right job where I could apply my academic and professional experience and had to adapt to my new situation. I changed my profession from engineering to reporting and analysis because I had an opportunity to volunteer at an NGO called Mercy Without Limits (MWL). MWL initially specialized in helping Syrian orphans and widows. However, as the demand for humanitarian relief has increased, it has expanded as a direct response organization to assist those most in need. I started working there as a volunteer in the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) department, and after three months of volunteering from January to April 2020, I became an M&E officer. I try to do my best at my job. I am responsible for monitoring their projects in Syria. I strive every day to make sure that all their projects meet humanitarian standards in order to provide the vulnerable people in Syria with the best possible services, because they deserve them.
I live in Gaziantep, which is a lovely city in the south of Turkey. To me, this city looks like my hometown, Damascus. There is also a river here that cuts through the city and the forest surrounding it. However, unlike in Damascus, in March 2020 the governor of Gaziantep launched a campaign to plant 27 million trees on the outskirts of the city. Turkey is the third country in the world to plant trees and has recently succeeded in increasing its forest area by six percent. When I first came to this country, I also saw the windmills that produce electricity. I was amazed by that spectacular scene.I hope that one day I can return to my country and apply what I have learned and will learn to make my country great again. I believe that many young Syrians share the same ambition. Many of them are living in Europe and North America, and they have seen the power of the people and what they can do to make their own countries beautiful. I share Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream when he said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up.” We will certainly rise up when we believe in ourselves and act accordingly.
About the author: Muhammad AlJabee
I am Muhammad, a monitoring and evaluation officer working for Mercy Without Limits, a nonprofit organization in Gaziantep, Turkey that provides educational, protective, water sanitation, and hygiene services in Syria. Prior to this, I volunteered with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, where I was one of three engineers who started the telecommunications department, which was a great success. At Mercy Without Limits, I am currently responsible for monitoring and evaluating implementation of all our services in order to improve them. I have always been a keen learner, so I am also seeking a scholarship to earn a master’s degree in renewable energy in the UK. As a humanitarian worker and a Syrian refugee, I have experienced the suffering that internally displaced Syrians face. My goal is to use the knowledge I will gain to help improve the quality of life in my home country.
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