What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without electricity?
I remember as a kid brushing my teeth to candlelight after a tornado knocked out the power to our home in Texas. The outage only lasted a day or two, but the uniqueness of it all felt special. We ate out for dinner pretty much every meal and went swimming to cool off.
Now I live in Iraq. The power to our home goes out for hours at a time, but the childhood wonder doesn’t mask it anymore. It’s an inconvenience. The power comes back on eventually, and there’s nothing rare or special or unique about it.
It’s just a daily thing… but it’s nothing compared to what refugees face every day.
Constant battles with electricity drain you. The endless heat saps you. We’ve watched mothers sit next to their children sleeping on a cement floor, waving fans at them because that’s the only thing that keeps kids asleep in 100-degree evening heat.
For refugees and displaced people across Iraq and Syria, power outages are a luxury because it means you live in a camp that has working electricity at least some of the time. In many camps or war-torn cities, there is almost no electricity to speak of.
That is the case in Aleppo, Syria, even today, nearly two years after the bombs stopped falling here.
So when we celebrate that you helped turn the lights back on in parts of Aleppo, it is no small thing. When you provide power to a home, neighborhood, village, or town, you bring life back to a place.
Let’s just take one Aleppo neighborhood as an example.
Over a year ago, you helped provide generators to this place.
By doing so, you enabled hundreds of courageous, first-to-return trailblazing families to come home. Their houses were damaged and looted. They were alone. But at least they had lights and could store things in the fridge.
Because of you.
As the first few trailblazers came home, word got around: “There’s electricity. People are starting to go back.” As word spreads that the lights are back on and people are returning, business owners are able to return, too.
When you provide power to a home, neighborhood, village, or town, you bring life back to a place.
On our most recent visit to this part of Aleppo, we saw barber shops, small markets, vegetable stands, tea stalls, and even a video game cafe! Families were swarming the area, children were out playing, men and women greeted one another and sat catching up on sidewalks.
This was a ghost town just months ago, but today it’s a city alive because you chose to turn the lights back on. You lit up a small part of Aleppo and welcomed people home. More than that, in many of these houses you helped repair doors and window frames and ceilings to make sure people come come home and be safe and secure.
Other parts of Aleppo are still without power—and for the most part, without people. Turning the lights back on is an essential part of welcoming refugees back home. And that’s what you’re making possible.
So thank you. We sat across from amazing women like Noora and heard of all that you made possible in Aleppo, and the impact you’re having here is profound. The ripple effects are profound.
Your love is profound.
On behalf of a brightly lit neighborhood in Aleppo: thank you.