Time is the most valuable thing for all human beings. The willingness to volunteer our time for our community with love is a great inspiration for generations. Syria is a great country that was once full of rivers, forests, and amazing natural life. 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 remaining forest and agricultural land, and rivers started to dry out. The government was not better, it did not take any measures to prevent such practice. After that, the war came to destroy the remaining forests and pollute the ground and air with its remnants.
When I see Canada and the US on National Geographic, I envy them for their nature where the mountains are full of trees and the running 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 clean its bank from plastic bottles and bags. However, the volunteering idea was not that common back then. Even today, I still hope to see that river as clean as my grandmother once told me it was and increased volunteerism makes that possible.
During the war, non-profit organizations were established, and the old ones grew bigger. After graduation from college in 2014, I volunteered in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), which is the largest NGO in Syria that supports internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in temporary shelters and provides psychosocial support and relief aid for vulnerable people inside 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 to use the radio as a private communication medium. As a telecommunication engineer, I immediately applied to be part of this initiative to volunteer my time and academic knowledge to be part of improving this project. I was one out of three engineers who started the Telecommunication Department at SARC, and it was a success at every level.
Turkey is the home of the majority of the NGOs which support the Syrians. Like many young Syrians, I had to flee the country due to the intensification of the war and went to Turkey. I struggled at first to find the right spot for me where I could apply my academic and professional experience and had to adapt to the 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 aiding 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 the implementation of the activities of the projects inside Syria. I strive every day to make sure that all the activities meet humanitarian standards in order to support the vulnerable people in Syria with the best possible services because they deserve it.
I live in Gaziantep which is a lovely city in the south of Turkey. For me, this city looks like my hometown, Damascus. There is also a river here which cuts through the city and the forest surrounding it. However, unlike in Damascus, the governor of Gaziantep launched in March 2020 a campaign to plant 27 million trees in the outskirts of the city. Turkey is the third country in the world to plant trees after it has recently succeeded in increasing its forest area by 6%. In addition, when I first came to this country I saw the windmills which 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 from my experience and will gather abroad to make my country great again. I believe that many young Syrians share the same ambition because many of them are living in Europe and North America and have seen the power of the people and what they can do to make their own countries beautiful. I share Dr. Martin Luther King’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 non-profit organization in Gaziantep, Turkey which provides educational, protection, and Water Sanitation and Hygiene services inside Syria. Prior to this, I volunteered and worked with Syrian Arab Red Crescent , where I was one of three engineers who started the Telecommunication Department, which was a success at every level. As a humanitarian worker and a Syrian refugee, I feel and share the suffering with the internally displaced Syrians inside Syria. With Mercy Without Limits, I am currently responsible for monitoring and evaluating implementation of all services in order to improve the entire process. I am also seeking a scholarship to earn a master’s degree in renewable energy in the UK because I have always been a keen learner and aim to use the knowledge I will gain to be part of improving the quality of life in my home country.
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