How One Syrian Man Is Serving Thousands of His People Every Day

Sometimes, the problems of the world overwhelm me.

The refugee crisis. Heat waves. Forest fires. Famines.

Do you ever feel like you need a vacation from the news?

With the sheer volume of sick, sad, awful news out there, it’s no surprise more and more people are looking for hope. They’re looking for some kind of good to grab on to, and it’s out there if you take the time to look. (Our friends at Good Good Good, for example!).

Syrian rubble
War rubble in East Ghouta outside Damascus, Syria. Photo by Matthew Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

But we need more than just good news to counteract all the bad. We need work. We need something we can put our hands to that grabs hold of our hearts and guards it against all that discouragement.

We need to look at our hands and see potential, enough strength to creatively rearrange the world for the better.

Many of you have given money to make good work happen in places like Iraq and Syria, but you’ve also given your lives away right there, in your own communities. You understand that giving money will never be enough—you have to give yourself away if you’re ever going to live with hope and believe in better news.

This is one of the most beautiful things we see, whether in Iraq, Syria, the United States and beyond: people who look at their hands and see resources. They see agency. They don’t wait around for others to fix everything, they look right at their own two hands and they resolve to make a difference.

Like you, Ibraheem isn’t waiting around.

Ibraheem was born in Syria. In the 1980s, he began volunteering at a summer camp outside Damascus.

He planted trees to shade the campers. He managed activities and eventually moved from a volunteer to staff to managing the entire camp.

Ibraheem, the manager of a camp for Syrians fleeing violence. Photo by Matthew Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

Ibraheem had his hands full.

Then the war broke out. Families fled en masse, the death toll rose, and Syria fell into chaos. Kids didn’t come to Ibraheem’s summer camp anymore.

Ibraheem stopped his story to take a drag of his cigarette, perhaps pausing for dramatic effect. Then he continued.

“People needed places to stay. They were fleeing with nothing, and they needed somewhere to go.”

Ibraheem looked at his hands, which were full, and decided he had something to offer. He could’ve shrugged and said, “I’m a camp manager, I work with kids, my hands are too full.” Instead, he saw what he had and decided to use it.

He opened wide the gates of his summer camp, and displaced Syrian families poured in.

At one point, the camp swelled to 18,000 people! A flood like this would have been too much for the camp staff, and that’s where you came in.

You came alongside this camp director to make sure he and his staff had what they needed to serve people in crisis. You helped open and run an amazing kitchen that fed 18,000 people every day. You helped provide medical care and extra housing for families as they waited to go home.

When the bombs were falling and countless people were in need, Ibraheem looked at his hands and saw resources. He saw an opportunity for compassion, to creatively rearrange the world in a way that helped instead of hurt.

And you supported him, making his compassion all the more powerful.

A young girl lined up for food in the kitchen you’ve helped support at Ibraheem’s camp. Photo by Matthew Willingham/Preemptive Love Coalition.

Today, Ibraheem’s camp is serving 3,000 people. Many are returning home, and they’re returning home much better off than when they arrived.

“People come here with just the clothes on their back, but when they leave they need a truck to carry everything home that they got from you!” Ibraheem laughed. “Many people want to stay for the good food and medical care, of course, but we need them to leave to make room for new families who are coming in.”

As the war in Syria rages on, Ibraheem and his team anticipate more families will come needing a place to stay, and they plan to be ready.

We walked through the camp, spent time in the kitchen, ate the delicious food and, of course, played with the kids and heard stories from their parents. It’s clear that you’ve had an impact here. You’ve made life more manageable for thousands of families right here in Syria.

Before we left, Ibraheem confirmed it: “When other doctors and charities came just to talk, you were serving. Thank you.”

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